Chemist who supervised evidence at a state crime lab in Florida is sentenced to 15 years in prison for stealing drugs and evidence tampering

A former chemist and supervisor at a Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) crime lab in Pensacola has pleaded guilty to racketeering, including stealing and tampering with drug evidence. Joseph Graves was jailed for 15 years earlier this month. An investigation determined that drug evidence was missing in more than 90 cases that Graves worked.

In 2014, Graves was arrested after it was discovered that drug evidence in cases he worked on had been removed and replaced with over-the-counter drugs. Several thousand pills had been taken from evidence lockers in criminal cases. These included opioids, benzodiazepines and some cannabis that was used as a lab standard.

Graves had been prescribed the same type of drugs submitted to the FDLE lab for testing, but doctors had restricted the amount and number of these drugs he could access legally, according to the state attorney’s office. As the supervisor of the lab’s chemistry and evidence sections, Graves had the power to access drug evidence and assign testing cases. Investigators allege that he gave himself those cases involving the drugs that he was using, removed some or all of them from the cases after testing them, and then switched them with similar looking over-the-counter pills.