Ex-JP lab chemist charged with drug theft

A chemist at the state’s drug evidence testing lab in Amherst, who formerly did similar work in Jamaica Plain, is facing charges of stealing cocaine and heroin and replacing them with fake substances, according to Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office.

Sonja Farak, 35, of Northampton formerly worked at JP’s drug lab alongside Annie Dookhan, whose alleged evidence-tampering has sparked a massive review of criminal convictions. The JP lab was shuttered last year in the wake of the Dookhan case and its work moved to Amherst.

Farak was arrested Jan. 19 and has pleaded not guilty to charges of evidence-tampering and possession of Class A and B drugs.

“We allege that this chemist tampered with evidence, placing the integrity of that evidence into question,” Coakley said in a press statement.

Farak allegedly testing the drug evidence properly before stealing it and replacing it with substitute materials. That is different from the charges against Dookhan, who allegedly failed to test evidence or doctored it while working at the former lab at the William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute at 305 South St.

Farak was interviewed by the State Police last September as part of the Dookhan investigation. Farak worked at JP’s State Lab for part of 2003 and sometimes joined Dookhan on casework.

“She found Ms. Dookhan to be friendly and did not notice her doing anything improper,” according to an official report of the interview obtained and published last year by the Boston Globe and Boston Herald.

Farak also told State Police at that time that she had no knowledge of any wrongdoing at the JP drug lab, according to the official report.

The charges against Farak are similar to a 1985 scandal at the JP drug lab, when a chemist was accused of stealing cocaine in 11 criminal cases after testing it, as the Gazette previously reported. Some State Lab workers mentioned the 1985 case to the State Police during the Dookhan investigation, according to the official interview reports, but Farak was not among them.

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