Mass. crime lab chemist charged

| Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013, 6:02 p.m.

CONWAY, Mass. — A chemist at a western Massachusetts drug laboratory has been charged with tampering with drug evidence, the second such allegation at a crime lab in the state in recent months, authorities said on Sunday.

Sonja Farak, 35, was arrested late Saturday by state police, authorities said, and charged with two counts of tampering with evidence and two counts of drug possession in separate cases early this month.

The charges came a month after another state crime lab chemist in Boston, Annie Dookhan, 34, was indicted on charges of falsifying drug evidence in thousands of cases. She was arrested in September.

Investigators identified some 10,000 people convicted or accused of crimes based on evidence that Dookhan handled, and state officials said in December that hundreds of people had been released from prison pending new trials in the investigation.

While the new charges raised worries about potential effects on criminal cases containing evidence handled by Farak, authorities tried to minimize such concern, saying a preliminary investigation indicated Farak's activities did not taint any cases.

“On its face, the allegations against this chemist do not implicate the reliability of testing done or fairness to defendants,” Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley told a news conference.

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