A Florida Department of Law Enforcement crime lab chemist in Pensacola has resigned from his job after an investigation turned up evidence he may have stolen prescription drugs from hundreds of criminal cases.
On Monday, FDLE investigators began one of the department's largest investigations ever into Joseph Graves' activities.
Graves was placed on leave Friday, but only after a week’s worth of suspicion that he’d lifted the pills from an evidence lockup in Northwest Florida. Still, he’s not under arrest, no charges have been filed and he hasn’t been interviewed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. So officials must search the state for clues.
“This is an undertaking that we’ve never had to do at FDLE,” says FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger.
A LONG WAY TO GO
The scope of the case is wide. The drugs were confiscated by 80 different law enforcement agencies spread across more than half of Florida’s counties. Graves worked about 2,600 cases since 2006, but FDLE is uncertain how many of the evidence files are missing pills. Actually, Plessinger says, what the Escambia County Sheriff’s Department noticed is that it’s not so much that the files are missing pills – it’s that they were suddenly the wrong ones...
“What they noticed there were there were some missing drugs – prescription pills – in drug cases. And those cases had been replaced with over-the-counter medications,” she says.
Plessinger adds it’s possible the prescription painkillers could have spread to other states by now, even though she concedes investigators have no idea what the chemist might have wanted to do with the drugs. Plessinger says there’s no evidence yet any of the other six FDLE labs in the state are involved.