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Fraud in a Drug Lab | 21,000 Cases | 3

Fraud in a Drug Lab | 21,000 Cases | 3

Tue, 01 Mar 2022 08:01

Annie Dookhan faces a day of reckoning. The Massachusetts criminal justice system is thrown into disarray.

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To listen to American scandal one week early and add free, join Wondry Plus in the Wondri app. Download the Wondri app in your Apple or Google Play mobile app store today. It's June 21st, 2011 at the Hinton State Lab in Boston. The chemist Annie Duccan walks down an empty hallway in piers around the corner. At the end of the hall is a small conference room, and in just a few minutes a meeting is going to begin inside that room, one that could upand her career and her life. As a chemist for this government lab, Duccan's job is to test drugs that have been confiscated from alleged criminals. Duccan is supposed to run drug samples through a battery of chemical tests proving conclusively that the samples are heroin, cocaine, or another illegal substance. The identification of these substances is a key piece of evidence in the state's prosecution. But for a long time now, Duccan hasn't been following the rules. To keep her numbers high and maintain her status as a superstar in the lab, Duccan has been dryliving her test results, guessing about what drugs are sitting in front of her instead of running actual tests. And her deception hasn't stopped there. At times, Duccan has had to cover her tracks when it turned out her guesses were wrong. She's swapped drug samples from different criminal cases, implicating people for crimes they did not commit. It was the only way to maintain the appearance that she was running real tests. And then recently, Duccan committed another breach, taking drug samples from the lab safe without getting proper permission. It's a serious violation of the lab's rules, and Duccan appears to have been caught. She's about to meet with her bosses to discuss the issue. And this time, if she can't cover up the truth, she could face suspension or something far worse. Duccan steps into the conference room where she finds several of her colleagues seated at a wooden table. One of them is Charles Salome, her direct supervisor. Next to him is Julie Nasef, the head of the lab. The two supervisors are joined by Elizabeth Obrine, an evidence officer who's in charge of managing the lab's secure safe. Duccan takes a seat at the table and shoots for colleagues confused and innocent look. I understand there's a problem. What's going on? I'm happy to help however I can. Obrine, the evidence officer, leans forward. Annie, I've been going over records for old samples and I've noticed some irregularities. Troubling ones, really. Obrine pushes a book of internal records across the table. Here, take a look at June 14th. On that day, you checked out some samples. Hmm, well, oh yeah, okay. It looks like I checked out 90 samples. And who signed out those samples? It says GP, so I assume that's Gloria Phillips. Those are Gloria's initials and she's an evidence officer. But Annie, here's the problem. I examined these records just yesterday. And when I did, there were no initials. The spaces were blank. Duccan's mouth grows dry as she looks at her bosses. The truth is she did forge the initials. She needed to cover her tracks after taking the drug samples without permission. Still, Duccan can't admit the truth. It could get her fired. Well, Elizabeth, I'm sorry, but if I understand correctly, the issue isn't with me. It's with Gloria. It seems like when I checked out the sample, she forgot to put down her initials. Then she filled them in later. I mean, that is a breach of protocol. You're right, Annie. That would be a breach of protocol. Between you and me, I have had some problems with her before. Okay, Annie. Well, the thing is, Gloria hasn't been in the office all week. I'm sorry, why? What do you mean? She's been on leave. She has a son who's sick and she's caring for him. She's not here. She couldn't have filled in those initials after the fact. Duccan tries to keep a brave face, but she struggles to get out her next words. Well, someone filled in those initials? Annie, did you forge them? I can't see why you'd think that. Just answered directly. Did you or did you not write Gloria's initials in the log book? Like I said, I think the issue is with Gloria, the evidence officer. All right. Obrion shuts the log book and rises from her chair. She shoots a look at Duccan's bosses. Look, she's obviously not going to give a straight answer. I've done everything I can so you guys can take it from here. Obrion steps out of the room and feeling the pinch of desperation. Duccan turns to her supervisors, repeating that she did nothing wrong. But her boss is rise and head for the door. As she leaves, Nasef, the lab supervisor, gives Duccan an instruction. Take a few minutes and then come to Nasef's office. They need to talk. A moment later, Duccan is left alone in the conference room, staring at the wall. This is serious. She's not only been caught taking samples without permission, but her bosses now know that she committed forgery. She's sure to face at least a suspension. And with this breach, they'll probably begin scrutinizing the rest of her work. They could even discover the fraud behind her sky high testing numbers. Duccan doesn't know how she's going to stay out of trouble this time. But if she wants to keep her job, stand a jail. She'll have to make sure that no one learns her secrets. American scandals sponsored by Sachi Art. I'm lucky. Not only is my wife beautiful, funny and smart, she also has great taste that matches mine, which has made decorating our home together a delight. But how do we go about finding the art for our home? Well, we agree on that too. Sachi Art. They have artworks from thousands of emerging artists around the globe in all styles. So you're guaranteed to find art that fits your style, space and budget. 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Learn more and find a local retailer at proven winners color choice dot com slash wundry. That's proven winners color choice dot com slash wundry. From Wundry, I'm Lindsey Graham and this is American Scandal. For years, Annie Ducan was the star chemist at a state drug testing lab in Boston. She won praise for her seemingly impossible productivity, testing far more drug samples than any other chemist in the government lab. But Ducan was carrying a dark secret. The chemist was faking her test results, and in some cases her fraud sent innocent people to prison. Ducan's colleagues eventually grew suspicious and began gathering evidence that revealed her misconduct. Leaders in the lab initially downplayed the evidence or looked the other way, but whistleblowers wouldn't remain silent. And as the truth came spilling out, a controversy erupted, and tens of thousands of criminal convictions were suddenly up for debate. This is episode three, 21,000 cases. It's January 27, 2012 at the state drug testing lab in Boston. The head of the lab, Julie Nasef, walks past several chemists who were performing slow, methodical work. They're using chemical processes to identify drug samples, which have been confiscated from alleged criminals. It's hard work and requires careful attention to details. But slowly the lab is chipping away at the massive backlog of samples that need to be tested. And as the lab supervisor, Nasef can see that they're making progress after facing intense pressure from government leaders to hit their numbers. Normally, seeing this kind of incremental progress would be enough to give Nasef a flicker of optimism. But as she moves past the chemists and steps into her office, she's hit with a feeling of dread. On her desk is an application for a federal grant. It's worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Money the lab desperately needs. But if they're going to get the funds, Nasef might have to lie to the federal government. One part of the application asks whether the lab has faced any allegations of misconduct or any ongoing investigations. Nasef knows the truth. Chemist Annie DuConn has been accused of fraud. And with a swirl of controversy surrounding DuConn, Nasef had no choice but to suspend her star chemists from testing drugs and to reassign her to another project. It's an ugly reality at the Hinton State Lab. But if Nasef admits this on a federal grant application, they could lose their shot at much needed funding. And that could force Nasef to lay off staff. The lab would be underwater once again with a backlog of samples growing by the day. So somehow, Nasef is going to have to make a decision. Between two very unsavory options. Nasef is chewing over the decision when her phone rings. Yeah, hello, this is Julie. Julie, hi, it's Steve Chillion. Nasef struggles to repress a sigh. Chillionn is a lawyer at the State's Department of Public Health, the agency that oversees the lab. He's been running the investigation into Annie DuConn. And in the process, he's been adding to the list of problems that Nasef has to address. Steve, what can I do for you? Well, I wanted to run something by. Something has come to my attention and I'm feeling troubled. Oh, Stephen, if you're troubled, then please tell me. I need to know what's going on. Well, as you know, I've been interviewing your staff and hearing rumors about Annie DuConn. Is this about the samples that she checked out from the safe? I mean, if it is, I promise you I've taken care of that. I reassigned DuConn to another job. Well, unfortunately, no, it's not just that. I'm hearing about issues with the integrity of DuConn's work. I mean, I don't really know how to put it, but people seem to be afraid to talk to me, like something going on. So Julie, please tell me, what's happening at your lab? What are people not saying? Nasef takes a deep breath as she thanks back to a meeting a few months ago. Two senior chemists accused DuConn of faking her test results. Nasef had dismissed the claim, but now, with all the mounting accusations, she doesn't know what to believe. Nasef is about to admit the truth when she glances down at the application for the federal grant. So much money is at stake. She can't risk tarnishing the lab's reputation. Well, Steven, I appreciate the position you're in, but I want to be clear about something. There's nothing you need to be concerned about. Julie, your employees are spooked. Well, they're probably tired and burned out. And when it comes to any DuConn, yeah, she made a horrible mistake checking out samples without permission. Besides from that lapse of judgment, she's been a stellar employee. Julie, I'm going to ask you again. Is there anything else you'd like to admit? No, Steve, there isn't. But I do have a lot of work, so unless you've got some specific accusations that I need to know about, I think we should probably say goodbye. Hmm. All right, then. Good bye for now. After Nasef hangs up, she breathes a sigh of relief. She managed to avoid a conversation she really doesn't want to have. And hopefully that's the end of it. But Nasef does still need to make a decision about this federal grant application. But as she looks at the paperwork, she realizes it's no real dilemma at all. There is only one option. The lab needs the money. So Nasef picks up a pen, and in the section that asks about misconduct, she firmly marks no, stating that there's nothing amiss at the lab. Nasef then sits down her pen and looks out at the lab's chemists, toiling away at their stations. For now, Nasef has protected them. But it's clear that DuConn, her star chemist, has become a real liability. And while it's painful to consider, Nasef knows that it might be time to part ways with Annie DuConn. 5 months later, a police captain is riding an elevator up to the floor that houses the Hinton State Drug Lab in Boston. It's been a busy week. Just days ago, the Massachusetts State Police assumed control of the drug testing lab. The responsibility used to lie with the Department of Public Health. But state legislators recently ordered the administrative handoff, and now state police are in charge of the lab, which plays a crucial role in law enforcement. So the elevator door opens, and the captain strides out and into his new office, ready to begin making a mark at the Hinton Lab. But before he can even sit down his coffee, he hears a knock at his door. He turns to see his deputy, who's holding a notebook, and nervously clicking a pen. The captain shakes his head. This particular deputy is an anxious type, always worried about something. But today, he looks unusually bothered. And before the captain can crack a joke and lighten the mood, the deputy says they need to have a meeting right now. The captain's mood turns grim, and he asks his deputy what the issue is. Dropping his voice, the deputy says it's a crisis. Two of their staff members just cornered him, saying they needed to talk about another chemist, a woman named Annie DuConn. They had serious accusations about her. Hearing the name, the captain relaxes. He tells his deputy that he's heard all about DuConn in the chain of custody, instead, when she checked out samples without permission. It was foolish and could have been very damaging, but it's old news. DuConn was forced to resign a couple months ago. She's no longer any kind of threat. But the deputy's concern doesn't go away. He says that there's still more to the story. The chemist he spoke with accused DuConn of faking her test results. They said they've been gathering evidence, and it adds up to a nightmare for the lab. Upon hearing this, the captain sits upright. He asks how big a problem this might actually be. The deputy pauses and gathers his thoughts. And then he explains that while it's hard to put an exact number on it, it sounds like DuConn's fraud touches on thousands of cases, maybe even tens of thousands. DuConn was the most productive chemist at the lab. Captain falls back into a sea to astonished. Tens of thousands of cases? How could anything like this have happened? And why didn't these chemists speak up before? The deputy says he asked that exact question. And it turns out the chemist did try to blow the whistle. But their bosses were enthralled with DuConn. She had the highest numbers of anyone on staff, so her supervisors looked the other way. Beat of sweat formed on the captain's forehead. He's a member of law enforcement and no stranger to crisis. But if these accusations are true, it will add up to a crisis unlike anything he's seen in his entire career. The captain rises to his feet and tells the deputy to bring in the two chemists right away. He's going to question them himself. After the deputy takes off, the captain balls his fists in anger. Tens of thousands of cases? It's unbelievable. With that many, they're not just dealing with petty criminals. The convictions probably also involved kingpins of the drug trade. And if Andy DuConn really faked her test results, every one of those convictions could get thrown out. The captain knows that with a problem of this magnitude, there's no way he can handle everything himself. He's going to have to alert the attorney general's office. And state prosecutors will have to decide what they'll do with Andy DuConn. About two months later, Andy DuConn turns the steering wheel as she drives home in her silver SUV. It's around five in the afternoon in Franklin, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. DuConn has been out running errands with her six year old son. She turns the corner and is almost home, seeing her house at the end of the street. It has bright yellow siding and wooden shutters, and there's a big front lawn edge with flowers. For DuConn, it's a dream home. Still, she gets gloomy this time of day. If she were back at the lab, she would just be hitting her stride right about now. She misses everything about the job. You all consuming work, the thrill of accomplishment, the praise. And while she's certainly glad to have more time with her son, privately, DuConn is still holding out hope that she can return to her old job. It was humiliating being forced to resign. She was accused of improperly checking out samples from the drug safe, and then forging a staff member's signature. But no one discovered DuConn's darkest secrets, the fake tests or the fabricated evidence. And technically, the resignation was only temporary and pending an investigation. So it might not be permanent after all. DuConn has also heard rumors that the backlog of drug samples has exploded since she left. The lab clearly needs her. So maybe there is still a chance. Maybe she can return. And again, be the superstar chemist she knows she is. These thoughts lift her mood. But when she pulls up to her house, DuConn notices something strange. A dark sedan is out front. It looks like a police car. And two men and khakis are standing near her front door, knocking, appearing inside. When DuConn pulls into the driveway, the men turn, squinting, and begin walking towards her SUV. One of the men gestures for her to roll down the window. He identifies the two of them as state police detectives and say they need to talk. DuConn's breath grows labored, and she asks the man what this is all about. But the detective won't answer. He only asks if they can have a chat with her inside the house. DuConn fights down a growing panic. Part of her wants to throw the car in reverse to drive away as fast as she can. But DuConn knows that's nothing but a fantasy. And while at best she can stall for a bit, there's no way she's going to be able to avoid this conversation forever. So DuConn and her son step out of the car. And as they approach the house, DuConn makes a quick decision. She's not sure what these men know. But she can't tell what kind of accusations they're going to throw at her. But no matter what they say, DuConn isn't going to crumble. And she'll never admit that she's done anything wrong. The best weddings are always filled with unforgettable moments and personal thoughtful touches. Like my friend Cecilie's wedding where the groom tossed the bouquet. For any kind of wedding you want, there's one place to start. Zola has everything you need all in one place. They've thought of everything. Venues, invites, registry, and more. And they'll be with you every step of your wedding planning journey. Whatever your style or budget, Zola has you covered with venues, photographers, florists, and more to make your wedding happen. 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Each episode is an exploration of the human spirit and how survivors manage to overcome hardship and move on with their lives, even thriving afterward. The new season of this is actually happening is available ad free only with Wondry Plus. And if this new season isn't enough, you can listen to more than 120 exclusive episodes available only to Wondry Plus subscribers. Join Wondry Plus on Apple Podcasts or on the Wondry app. It's August 28, 2012 in Franklin, Massachusetts and just minutes after Annie Ducon was intercepted by two policemen. Ducon is in her son's bedroom, getting him settled with a TV show. She smooths his hair and tells him to wait quietly. She'll be back soon. But her son protests, asking her to stay. Ducon knows she can't put this off any longer though. There are two detectives waiting in the other room. They're probably here to ask difficult questions about her time at the state drug lab. Ducon is going to have to dodge and parry their questions as best she can. And she can't do that hiding out in her son's bedroom. So she kisses her boy on the forehead and steps out into the dining room where she finds the two men seated at her large glass table. She sits down across from them, her heart pounding. As she sizes them up, Ducon reminds herself what she needs to do. Stick to her story, deny any wrongdoing. And with luck, they'll be gone in a matter of just minutes. So with a smile on her face, Ducon asks whether this is about the chain of custody issue and old problem that just won't seem to go away. But the detectives don't answer. Instead, they glass at each other and flip open their notebooks. And then the men turn the questions on her. They start with simple background information. When she started her job at the lab, what kind of work was she doing? It's all civil and Ducon begins to relax. She knows the state police recently took over the lab. Maybe this is just a routine review of previous investigations. But her mood quickly changes when one of the men's snaps open a briefcase and removes a stack of documents. Ducon's eyes go wide. She recognizes these papers. They're copies of the calibration forms she's filled out over several years. Before testing drug samples, chemists at the lab are supposed to calibrate their testing devices and run other equipment checks. You're supposed to document the details on forms like these. But Ducon hated the calibration checks. They slowed her down. So sometimes she fudged the numbers or skipped steps. As she stares at the stack of forms, it suddenly dawns on her. The detectives aren't just here to talk about the time she checked out drug samples without permission. They're going to ask questions about her actual work. And it's then the interrogation begins in earnest. One detectives start asking about a calibration form and before he finishes, the other jumps in about a different form. They go back and forth and Ducon is left feeling whiplashed. But she doesn't hesitate. She continues to deny any wrongdoing, claiming she made honest mistakes. But the men won't listen. They say they know she's lying and she needs to admit the truth. She didn't follow the rules and she took shortcuts. Ducon bites her lip as the detectives her or more accusations her way. She feels trapped and cornered. Ducon doesn't know how much longer she can take this. But suddenly she catches a break. The front door swings open and her husband's surgeon walks in. He's wearing a green collar shirt and carrying a laptop case. And as he enters the dining room, he looks around in confusion asking what's going on. Ducon quickly rises from her chair, thankful for the distraction. She tells the detectives that she'll answer all of their questions. But first she has to step into the other room and have a word with her husband. A few minutes later, Ducon and her husband, Surin, retreat to the kitchen. Ducon motions at her husband to keep his voice down. The detectives are probably listening from the other room. The angry frown, Surin whispers, but demands to know what's going on. Ducon doesn't tell the full truth. Instead, she tells her husband that everything is fine. They're all just reviewing some paperwork from the lab. But her husband scowls and says things don't look fine. Whatever's going on, it looks like she's in over her head. She's lucky that today he came home early. Ducon crosses her arms and anger. This isn't the first bite she's had with her husband. Recently, the two have been sniping at each other often. And if she were honest with herself, she did admit that their marriage is falling apart. And it's because of moments like this. Ducon doesn't need any of her husband's condescension, his patronizing anger. So she hisses that she doesn't need his help. She's strong enough to take care of this on her own. But Surin tells his wife that at this point, he can't trust her. First, she lost her job. And now she can't even admit that she's facing some kind of interrogation. Ducon looks down furious. This conversation isn't helping. So she turns to walk back into the dining room where the detectives are waiting. But her husband stops her. He takes deep breath and apologizes. He says he didn't mean to make it personal. He is just trying to help. And even though she is strong and she is smart, Ducon shouldn't keep talking, at least not without a lawyer. If she wants, he can reach out to someone. Ducon begins to soften. Her husband's offer is a meaningful gesture. But she says no. She can handle this herself. But if he does want to help, he can check in on their son and spend some time with him. Surin nods. But he adds that when the detectives leave, they need to have a long talk. It's past time for an honest conversation. After her husband steps out, Ducon returns to the dining room where the detectives are waiting for her. Ducon knows the two men likely have the upper hand. They seem to have proof that she cut corners on the job. Normally, she'd stay strong and keep lying. And the past, sticking to her story, has always worked. Maybe this time is different. Maybe she has to try a different approach. So she takes a seat in her dining room and folds her hands in her lap. As she looks up at the detectives, she makes a strategic decision. It's clear that the detectives aren't going to leave her alone unless she confesses to something. So that's what she's going to do. She'll admit something small, something damaging, but ultimately minor. And that should fend off these detectives and get them out of her hair. Ducon rises from her chair and heads to the window. Oh, it's stuffy in here, isn't it? Or either of you warm? Mr. Conn, we're fine. We just want to talk. Well, I'm warm. Okay. Ah, that is better. And you know what? I do have something to tell you. Well, that's good. We're very ready to hear the truth. The truth. Okay. I took some shortcuts with these calibration reports. What does that mean? You took shortcuts. Ah, I faked them. Mr. Conn, please be specific. Which reports did you fake? All the ones here. So just these. I'm sure there were some others. And I admit I didn't do the work properly. I didn't follow procedure. And that was wrong. But I got the work done, even if it wasn't perfect. Mr. Conn, this isn't a matter of a few minor mistakes, or merely cutting corners. I think it's time to come clean. Tell us the full story. Well, I have told you the full story. And what I'm telling you could ruin my career. Surely that's enough. The detectives exchange glances. And one of them reaches into the briefcase and pulls out another folder. Mr. Conn, I'm going to use a term that I recently learned about your profession. Have you ever dry labed? Dry lab? What do you mean? I know you've heard the phrase. It's when you don't actually use chemicals to test a drug. You just look at a sample and guess. Well, I suppose I have heard the term. But have you ever dry labed? Have you ever personally skipped testing the sample with chemicals and just guessed? I don't know. I don't think I've ever dry labed. Mr. Conn, I'm going to speak very directly. Are you saying you have not dry lab? Or are you saying you don't think you have? I'm certain that I don't think I've ever dry lab. DeConn knows the answer is evasive. And it doesn't seem to work. The detectives look skeptical. That's one of them reaches for the folder on the table. Here, please take a look at this. Do you remember this case, Mr. Conn? It was a few years ago. You got a sample and claimed it was cocaine. DeConn looks down at the page when suddenly she's gripped with fear. She remembers this case. She guessed that the sample was cocaine. But when it came back from a secondary testing, it proved to be something else and a nerd substance. DeConn needed to cover her tracks. So she took actual cocaine from another case and swapped it with her sample. It was an act of fraud that could land her in prison. Well, I suppose I remember this case. I'm what I processed a lot of drug samples. You have to understand. But we understand. And around this time, you were actually audited. Is that correct? Yes, that is correct. And they didn't find anything wrong. They also didn't look very hard. But for this case, for the sample that was cocaine, then wasn't cocaine, then miraculously, it was cocaine, we went back and tested the original sample. Do you know what we found? Yeah. Look at the results. Inert powder, no drugs present. Well, I don't understand. Mr. Conn, you spiked the sample. You took cocaine from another batch and you made it look like that's what you tested. You tried to cover things up. No, that's not true. It is true. And it's also true that you've been dryliving for years. We know you have. There's no honest way your testing numbers could be so high. I put in longer hours than every other person at the lab. Mr. Conn, no one could hit those numbers. Not if they worked 24 hours a day. No, you're wrong. Conn clean. Admit the truth. The two detective sit back gazing at Ducan. Tears begin whaling up inside her. She feels sick and weak. And more than anything she wants to hide to make all of her problems and all of her mistakes just disappear. But suddenly for Ducan, it feels like a switch has been flipped. She grows calm and clearheaded. And words come tumbling out. I screwed up big time. I messed up. I messed up, man. It's my fault. I don't want the lab to get a trouble. Annie Ducan has admitted the truth. She's finally been caught. The police now know all of her lies, all of her cover ups and mistakes. And now there's nothing she can do, except wait for the consequences. If you're into true crime, the Generation Y podcast is essential listening. 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Room is buzzing with conversation as reporters talk on their cell phones and set up voice recorders. Behind them, TV camera men arrange equipment as they get ready for a press conference. The room begins to grow quiet as a jowly man with thick eyebrows approaches the podium. Colonel Timothy Albin is the head of the state police force. He's wearing a navy blue cap and pants along with a shiny badge, an outfit intended to project a sense of confidence and security. But as Albin steps up to the microphone, he's feeling anything but confident about the current situation. He's about to announce a scandal at a drug testing lab in Boston. A chemist named Annie DuConn appears to have committed fraud, possibly over the course of years. And while he won't reveal DuConn's name or the full scope of her potential crimes, one thing is clear. Her actions will tarnish the entire state's criminal justice system and throw into doubt countless drug convictions. Albin shares the details with the press and looking out over the room, he delivers his closing remarks. The police force is furious about this. This is something that goes to the integrity of law enforcement. I can assure you we will investigate this case thoroughly and prosecute everyone responsible. Now I'll take some questions. You serve right there. Are drugs still being tested at the lab? No. As of yesterday, the governor has closed the lab pending further investigation. Closing entire lab, that's a serious step. Well, these are serious crimes. Our concern has to be any miscarriage of justice because of this particular employee's malfeasance. OK? You, maim? Albin points to another reporter, a woman wearing a burgundy dress. Is it just one rogue chemist or are other people responsible? So far, it seemed to be just one, but several supervisors at the lab have been suspended as well. What about people who are imprisoned because of this chemist? She must have been involved in a lot of these drug families. Yeah, we'll be spearheading a thorough review of cases in which the chemist was involved, believe me. How broad is this investigation? The lab in question was in charge of testing evidence across multiple counties. So sweeping is the answer. Could you give us a number? Were we talking hundreds of cases, thousands? Albin pauses. He knew this question was coming, but it's still an embarrassment for the state government. Yes, it could mean thousands of cases. But the potential is that we have people incarcerated or who have been wrongly prosecuted. And that's why we're taking this drastic step. And reviewing the cases the chemist was involved in. I have a possible name of the chemist, Annie DuConn. Can you confirm it? No, at this time we're not releasing any names. And we ask that you respect the privacy of anyone involved. The reporters continue to shout out questions, demanding more information about the suspect. But it's time for the press conference to come to a close. As Albin steps away from the podium, he shakes his head, exhausted with frustration. The state police already had barely enough resources. And now they're about to face an onslaught of additional work. They may have to scrutinize tens of thousands of criminal cases and figure out how many of them Annie DuConn may have compromised. It's a disaster. But still, Albin meant what he said. E and his colleagues won't stop working until they finish sorting out the mess and bring Annie DuConn to justice. It's November 22nd, 2013, over a year later. Annie DuConn is walking to the front of a courtroom in Boston and with every step she takes, DuConn can feel the eyes of the judge boring into her, ready to cast a severe sentence. DuConn can't understand how it came to this. After all the work she's done for the state of Massachusetts, after all the hours, she spent testifying in courts just like this one, helping to support criminal convictions. Today, DuConn herself is the one on trial. And as it stands, her case isn't looking good. She can only hope that the judge will show some mercy. Sitting at the defendant's table, DuConn looks directly at the judge as she asks DuConn to rise. Then the judge asks if DuConn understands that she is pleading guilty to 27 counts, including evidence tampering, obstruction of justice, and perjury. DuConn doesn't want to say yes. She can't bear the thought of admitting everything she's done. Her instincts tell her to come up with one more convincing lie, but DuConn knows it's too late for that. So in a client voice, she answers yes. She's pleading guilty to all 27 counts. The judge nods and begins reading a prepared statement. It's a scathing set of remarks. And the judge refers to DuConn as a tragic and broken person who has been undone by her own ambition. The judge adds that the consequences of her fraud is nothing short of catastrophic. With innocent people sent to prison, guilty criminals released, and the criminal justice system shaken to the core. DuConn has always been driven by the electric feeling of praise. Nothing felt better than being treated like someone special, the superwoman of the state lab. But this, this is the opposite. It is physically painful for DuConn to receive this public scolding. She knows that in other people's eyes, she's a menace, a criminal, pathological narcissist. But for DuConn, it was never so cut and dry. She made mistakes. And when she tried to fix them, she somehow made things worse. She believes her intentions were ultimately good. So when the judge finishes with her bruising remarks, DuConn's attorney makes one last plea for clemency. He tells the judge that DuConn knows what she did was wrong, but that she's truly sorry. Given DuConn's otherwise spotless criminal record, they're asking for a sentence of one year. DuConn studies the judge's face carefully, hoping for any hint of mercy. But the judge looks unmoved, and without any emotion, she issues the sentence. Three to five years in the state penitentiary. DuConn must also serve two years of probation. DuConn stands frozen, days within comprehension. Three to five years. But before she can make sense, what just happened? The judge raps her gavel and waves at the guards, two men in uniform to send on DuConn and slapped cold handcuffs onto her wrists. With any DuConn's confession of her crimes, the legal system of Massachusetts was plunged into chaos. The state reviewed some 36,000 drug cases that DuConn had worked on. Local courts were flooded with appeals from convicted drug offenders, and about 21,000 convictions were eventually overturned. It was the largest action of its kind in US history. One of the defendants was Leonardo Johnson, a former drug user who tried to sell a piece of a cashew to an undercover officer. Johnson's name was cleared after serving 15 months in prison as a result of DuConn's false testimony. He went on to sue DuConn, earning damages of more than $2 million. DuConn's crimes were also costly for Massachusetts. The state legislature had to allocate $30 million to deal with illegal fallout, and several public officials were forced out of their jobs in the wake of the controversy. These included the head of the Hinton Lab, Julie Nasef, as well as DuConn's former supervisor, Charles Salamy. Still, DuConn's own punishment was relatively lenient. Despite being sentenced to up to five years, she ended up serving only two and a half years before earning parole. She left prison in 2016, but the fallout of her fraud continues. In July of 2021, another 100 convictions based on lab results to Conn handle were tossed by a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice. In giving the order, the Justice declared, no conviction that any DuConn had a role in securing can be allowed to stand, now that we understand the full scope and enormity of her malfeasance. From Wondry, this is episode three of Fraud in a Drug Lab from American Scamp. In our next episode, I sit down with David Farber, a historian whose books include The War on Drugs. We'll discuss the decades long effort to combat illegal drugs, a far reaching campaign that spanned continents, and which critics argue, has helped fuel mass incarceration in the United States. If you like our show, please give us a five star rating and leave a review and be sure to tell your friends. I also have two other podcasts you might like, American History Tellers and Business Movers. Follow on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, or wherever you're listening right now, or you can listen to new episodes early and ad free by subscribing to Wondry Plus in Apple Podcasts or in the Wondry app. You'll also find some links and offers from our sponsors in the episode notes. Supporting them helps us keep offering our shows for free. Another way you can support the show is by filling out a small survey at slash survey and tell us what topics we might come next. You can also find us and me on Twitter. Follow me at Lindsay A. Graham, Lindsay with an A, Middle Initially, and thank you. If you'd like to learn more about Annie DuCon and other scandals and science, we recommend the book, The Ice Pick Surgeon by Sam Kean. This episode contains reenactments and dramatized details. And while in most cases we can't know exactly what was said, all our dramatizations are based on historical research. American scandals hosted and edited and executed produced by me Lindsay Graham for Airship, audio editing by Molly Bach, sound design by Derek Barons, music by Lindsay Graham. This episode is written by Sam Kean, edited by Christina Mallsberger. Our senior producer is Gabe Riven. Executive producers are Stephanie Jenns, Jenny Lauer Beckman, and Marsha Louis for Wondry.