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A former FBI agent who went from drug investigator to drug abuser was sentenced to three years in prison Thursday, authorities said.
The agent, Matthew Lowry, 33, admitted to stealing heroin from evidence bags and replacing the missing drugs with protein powder and laxatives. He told NBC News last week that his addiction began with painkillers prescribed after he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, and when he ran out of pills he turned to heroin.
As a member of the FBI Cross-Border Task Force, investigating drug sales and logging evidence, Lowry found it easy to access seized dope.
Married with an infant child, Lowry, who lives in Maryland, began dipping into the squad's cache of heroin in 2013, and was soon using it every day, he said.
He was caught last September, after a binge left him unable to drive his FBI-issued car, drawing the attention of co-workers.
He ended up pleading guilty in March to 20 counts of obstruction of justice, 18 counts of falsification of records, 13 counts of conversion of property, and 13 counts of possession of heroin.
Lowry's theft and tampering with evidence led to 28 drug suspects going free.
Lowry wept in court and apologized to his family, NBC Washington reported. Lowry's father, a retired police commander, also cried and asked the judge for mercy.
Federal sentencing guidelines called for a sentence of seven to nine years. But U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Hogan said he was swayed by mitigating factors, mainly the nature of Lowry's addiction, the Washington Post reported.
In addition to the three years in prison, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas F. Hogan ordered Lowry to serve two years of supervised release after he gets out, and to pay a $15,000 fine, according to the the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.