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HOT TOPICS: Drug and Alcohol Treatment  Heroin

Police Lab Worker "Skimmed Impounded Coke"

The Feds say working with cocaine seized as evidence was too much temptation for one lab technician.


Did Madden have her fingers in
the test tubes? Photo via

By Will Herbst


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Federal prosecutors have charged a former technician for the San Francisco Police Department with skimming cocaine from the laboratory. The allegations not only forced the closure of the lab, but also resulted in the dismissal of hundreds of drug arrests. A grand jury indicted 61-year-old Deborah Madden yesterday on a felony count of acquiring a controlled substance through subterfuge. Prosecutors contend that Madden began appropriating cocaine evidence seized in drug busts from the lab after she started working there in late 2009. She's already been convicted of possession, but California state prosecutors declined to press the additional charges, citing insufficient evidence. Yet federal authorities have opted to pursue the case. Drugs collected as evidence are subjected to strict regulations regarding the "chain of custody," and strict documentation of everyone handling them is required. In some states, such as Illinois, the same lab technician who performed the initial analysis must even testify in court to describe their role in the procedure.

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