Chemist Got High At Work Every Day For 8 Years

Sonia Farak was a drug user. And while this statement is hardly shocking, considering the number of drug users in the United States today, the manner by which Farak obtained her drugs is definitely outside the norm. The 37-year-old is now a former chemist, who obtained her drugs by stealing them from the lab where she worked.

According to a report from NPR, she was high on drugs at work nearly every day for eight full years. Her job at the lab was to test controlled substances submitted by law enforcement agencies to determine their authenticity. She would then testify in court concerning the authenticity of those substances and her testimonies served as evidence in criminal cases. Though she was arrested in 2013, and sentenced to jail in 2014, a state investigation into her misconduct was just released this week.

Approximately one year into her tenure at the state drug lab in Amherst, Massachusetts, she began consuming the lab’s “standard” drugs. These standard drugs were purchased from drug companies and served as the control reference in laboratory testing. Sonia Farak admitted to using the methamphetamine standard first. According to the investigation, she tried the methamphetamine out of curiosity. An excerpt from the investigation concludes,

“Farak testified that her primary reason for first using the drug was ‘curiosity.’ She indicated that she had researched the drug in the past and ‘when she read about it,’ she concluded, ‘that’s the one I am going to try if I am going to try it.’ Farak enjoyed what she called the ‘positive side effects’ of the drug: it lasted a longtime and was an ‘energy boost.’ According to Sonia Farak, the ‘high’ from the drug lasted approximately 8 to 10 hours.”

Between the years 2005 and 2009, Farak had almost completely diminished the lab’s stock of methamphetamine standard. When she neared the bottom of the stock of methamphetamine standard, she turned to cocaine, ketamine, LSD, MDMA, and a host of other drugs — this time she consumed not only the lab standards, but also the drugs submitted to the lab by law enforcement.

Shockingly, despite her excessive drug use, Farak’s performance at work remained satisfactory and her addiction went unnoticed. Her work was so satisfactory that a colleague, a senior chemist at the Amherst lab, stated that she was both “dedicated to her work” and “meticulous.” Her colleagues remained oblivious to her drug use until the last few months of her time at the lab. During those last few months, a senior chemist noted that Sonia Farak’s physical appearance had diminished and that she had grown “nosy about what was coming in.”

After her supply diminished, she became more desperate. The report from the state attorney general’s office states,

“As a result, by the fall of 2011, Farak had begun taking from samples and standards of base (crack) cocaine at the Lab. From that point on, she admitted, she became heavily addicted to base cocaine. This addiction resulted in her using base cocaine during work hours not only throughout the building in which the Lab was housed at UMass, but also in the Lab itself, including at her workstation.”

Not only that, but she also began to manufacture crack cocaine using the cocaine she obtained from her workplace. And despite the fact that her drug use went unnoticed, the report does indicate that she had a couple of close calls. An inspection at the lab in 2012 put her face to face with the authorities while she was high on crack cocaine. Secondly, Farak spoke with MSP officials about a criminal trial in which she was to testify shortly after having used crack in her car during a lunch break.

Finally, in 2013, employees of the lab noticed the missing drug samples. They also began discovering some irregularity in Farak’s work. From there, things quickly went downhill. The lab in Amherst was closed down and Farak was placed under arrest. She pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, four counts of larceny of controlled substances from a dispensary, and four counts of tampering with evidence. She was sentenced to 18 months in jail.

State officials are now concerned that Farak’s conduct may have impacted as many as 40,000 criminal cases in the state. Especially after Annie Dookhan, another state chemist, pleaded guilty to evidence tampering, obstruction of justice, and perjury before the falsification of drug tests that impacted a similarly high number of cases. There’s currently no word on how Sonia Farak’s actions may play out for the individuals involved in the cases in question.

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