Tampered evidence threatens hundreds of Florida cases

CREATED Feb. 1, 2014 - UPDATED: Feb. 2, 2014

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is launching a statewide investigation of all cases criminal cases reviewed by a particular chemist in the Pensacola regional crime lab.

According to a report this week, the FDLE began an investigation into missing prescription pain pills from the evidence room at the Escambia County Sheriff's Office. 
The missing drugs had been re-placed with over-the-counter medicine. 
Thursday, investigators determined that each case with missing drugs had been analyzed by one Pensacola chemist. 
Since then, FDLE has opened a criminal investigation and the chemist is now on leave. 
Officials are now reviewing evidence from all cases handled by the chemist between 2006 and now.
Monday officals plan to visit affected law enforcement agencies to examine all evidence handled by the chemist. 
The chemist worked nearly 2600 cases for 80 law enforcement agencies in 35 Florida counties including Charlotte, Collier, Desoto, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties. 
FDLE's commissioner addressed the breaches in an emergency press conference Saturday afternoon. 
"Because of this breach, we have a lot of work to do to restore the confidence of our colleagues and of the Florida public," said Commissioner Gerald Bailer. "Our first priority is to find out exactly what happened in this particular case and work with state attorneys to hold this person criminally accountable. Our second priority is to review lab protocols to ensure that this does not happen again."