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Florida Reopens 2,600 Cases After Chemist Allegedly Removes Evidence

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced Saturday it is investigating 2,600 cases handled by a Pensacola-based agency chemist after discovering dozens of drug cases where prescription pain pills were swapped out with over-the-counter pills. FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey said the chemist had handled cases involving 80 law enforcement agencies from 35 counties since he was hired in 2006. Most, but not all, of the cases involved testing drug evidence, though it was not immediately clear how many cases might be compromised. The situation was discovered after Escambia County investigators realized evidence was missing and later found other evidence packages where prescription pills had been substituted with non-prescription pills. It potentially means drug charges will have to be dropped and prisoners released if it's determined the chemist tampered with evidence, Bailey said. "We are going back and looking at each case that was worked and we are going to the evidence rooms of sheriff's departments and police departments around the state and actually physically looking — especially at the prescription meds — to see if what is in that particular package is in fact a prescription medication and not in fact an over-the-counter calcium tablet," Bailey said. Bailey said the agency doesn't yet know the motive. The chemist isn't cooperating with the investigation.

-- The Associated Press