Better living through chemistry: Drug addicted chemist steals test samples to feed addiction
Sonja Farak had been struggling with cocaine and methamphetamine addiction for years. She was a Massachusetts state lab chemist who never had to leave the office to get her fix. She stole drugs from her lab and compromised an estimated 10,000 criminal prosecutions.
One of Farak’s therapists wrote after a counseling session with Farak in April 2009, “She obtains the drugs from her job at the state drug lab, by taking portions of samples that have come in to be tested.” Farak told her therapist that the drugs helped give her energy, “get things done” and “not procrastinate.”
Defense lawyers stated that Farak’s confessions in her therapy session proved that her incidents tampering with evidence were far worse than previously unveiled. State law enforcement had previously insisted that her incidents with tampering with samples were confined to a just handful of criminal cases in 2012, but it has recently been noted that her addiction corrupted thousands of cases.
Randolph Gioia, deputy chief counsel for the committee on Public Counsel Services said, “What we are dealing with is thousands of alleged drug samples at the Amherst lab that were analyzed for use in court by someone who has admitted to widespread tampering of the samples.” He added that “all of the cases she touched are corrupted and the convictions should be thrown out.”
Gioia ordered that an “independent, completely transparent investigation” be conducted on the thousands of people who have been affected by Farak’s transgressions. She was arrested in January 2013 and prosecuted by the office of the former attorney general Martha Coakley.
Farak’s case came to light just months after another Massachusetts state chemist Annie Dookhan had been arrested in September of 2012. Dookhan was found guilty for fabricating evidence in thousands of drug samples she tested at a lab in Jamaica Plain, a neighborhood in Boston. She corrupted possibly as many as 40,000 cases. She is now serving a prison sentence of three to five years. Farak and Dookhan’s cases are not believed to be connected.
Farak pleaded guilty in early 2014 to four counts of stealing cocaine from a test lab, four counts of tampering with evidence and two counts of unlawful possession of cocaine. She was sentenced to 18 months in prison. She was recently released this past July, officials said.
In April, it was revealed that the scope of Farak’s drug theft and use was much larger than originally discovered. Her medical records show that her theft and drug use started in 2004, which marked a full eight year span before the she was discovered by the state. She even told her therapist that she used multiple drugs throughout the day and at one point, she wondered if she was going “psychotic.” Among the long list of drugs she stole from her lab were powdered cocaine, crack cocaine, LSD, methamphetamine, amphetamine, ketamine, MDMA and marijuana.
Defense attorney Luke Ryan, one of the lawyers who exposed Farak’s medical records, said that she was assigned to test roughly 29,000 drug samples throughout her nine year career and considers the estimate of 10,000 defendants being affected as “fairly conservative.” He said, “The collateral consequences of drug convictions are enormous — people who don’t have driver’s licenses, people who have been denied employment, people who have been denied housing, people who have immigration consequences, people in federal court being sentenced as subsequent offenders.”
Matthew Segal, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts said that this incident with Farak is a “disaster” and that “we should go about the business of restoring the integrity of the justice system.”
Drug addiction affects 23 million Americans on a daily basis. Stories like Farak’s demonstrate how substance abuse affects people of all occupations and backgrounds. Those with drug addictions can find help. Sovereign Health Group is among the leading addiction treatment providers in the country. We provide inpatient and outpatient programs across the nation for patients who are struggling with addiction, mental health disorders and dual diagnosis. If you know someone who is struggling with addiction and is in need of treatment, please do not hesitate to call. You may reach us at 888-530-4614. Our admissions helpline is open 24/7 and our treatment specialist will assist you in finding the right treatment option for you.
Written by Benjamin Creekmore, Sovereign Health Group writer