Mass. chemist pleads not guilty to tampering

  • Associated Press
  • January 22, 2013 - 12:08 PM

BELCHERTOWN, Mass. - A state crime lab chemist accused of tampering with evidence and stealing drugs pleaded not guilty at her arraignment Tuesday.

Sonja Farak, 35, of Northampton, was ordered held on $5,000 bail at her arraignment Tuesday in Belchertown on charges of tampering with evidence, heroin possession and cocaine possession.

Her lawyer told the judge that she has no criminal record and is helpful to neighbors with disabilities.

Farak was arrested Saturday after officials at the Amherst lab reported alleged evidence tampering. Attorney General Martha Coakley said Farak had stolen a drug that tested positive for cocaine and replaced it with another substance.

The Amherst lab where Farak worked has been closed temporarily, and its chemists were transferred to a different lab.

Farak had been employed as a chemist with the Department of Public Health until responsibility for testing of drug evidence was transferred to state police over the summer.

Her case is not connected to that of Annie Dookhan, who has been accused of faking test results at a Boston drug lab. Dookhan has pleaded not guilty to 27 charges in connection with the offenses that authorities say cast doubt on thousands of Massachusetts drug prosecutions.

"If we didn't have a case in the eastern part of the state, we wouldn't have such scrutiny in this case," said Farak's lawyer, Elaine Pourinski.

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