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Every scandal begins with a lie. But the truth will come out. And then comes the fallout and the outrage.
Scandals have shaped America since its founding. From business and politics to sports and society, we look on aghast as corruption, deceit and ambition bring down heroes and celebrities, politicians and moguls. And when the dust finally settles, we’re left to wonder: how did this happen? Where did they trip up, and who is to blame? From the creators of American History Tellers, Business Wars and Tides of History comes American Scandal, where we take you deep into the heart of America’s dark side to look at what drives someone to break the rules and what happens when they’re caught. Hosted by Lindsay Graham.
Tue, 22 Feb 2022 08:01
Annie Dookhan's colleagues suspect foul play, and begin a covert investigation of the lab's star chemist. To avoid scrutiny, Dookhan sets in motion a desperate ploy.
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To listen to American scandal one week early and add free, join Wondry Plus in the Wondry app. Download the Wondry app in your Apple or Google Play mobile app store today. It's November 2009 in Boston, Massachusetts. Inside a courthouse near the waterfront, a crowd of defendants and lawyers files into a courtroom waiting for their cases to be heard. One of the defendants, Leonardo Johnson, takes a seat in the gallery. Johnson is a middle aged man and wears a thin mustache above his lip. And although he used to be poor and addicted to drugs, today he's dressed in his nicest outfit ready to make a good impression on the judge and jury, Johnson knows that that shouldn't be an issue. All he has to do is sit in the witness box and tell the truth. After that, there's no way a jury will find him guilty. He'll finally be exonerated and Johnson will walk out of the court of free man. Soon the judge raps for a gavill and calls for the next case. Johnson hears his name and together with his lawyer, he heads forward to the defense table. It's time to put this nightmare behind him. After Johnson is sworn in, his lawyer turns to address the court. Your honor, members of the jury, we have a rather unusual case here. And if we want to understand what happened and why Leonardo Johnson should leave this court room of free man, we need to go back to the beginning. So, Mr. Johnson, if you would, please tell the court your story. Johnson leans forward as he looks out at the jury. Of course. Well, it was a few months ago. I'd fallen on some hard times and I needed money badly. Mr. Johnson, what was so urgent that day? Well, I'll be honest, I used to use drugs. I was addicted to crack cocaine. And that day, I needed money because I was planning to buy some more. And what happened? Well, to get some money, I decided to sell something. Mr. Johnson, what did you decide to sell? It was a piece of a cashew. A few people in the back of the court break out and surprise chuckles. But Johnson's lawyer presses forward. You said a piece of a cashew. Like the nut. Is that correct? Yes, like the nut. I found it in my carpet. And Mr. Johnson, what exactly were you hoping to acquire by selling a fragment of a cashew? Well, in case people aren't familiar, a little piece of cashew like that looks just like a rocket crack cocaine. And crack users, when they're high, they can't spot the difference. So I found a guy, an addict. And I tried to sell him the cashew. But the man you tried to sell it to, he wasn't really an addict. Was he? Johnson pauses shaking his head. No, he wasn't. He turned out to be an undercover police officer. I'm going to regret that moment for the rest of my life. But what I keep trying to understand is all these days I spent waiting in jail for this trial for today. I sold a piece of food, I found him, I carpet. And that's not a crime, is it? Johnson's lawyer pauses as he lets the question sink in. After wrapping up his testimony, Johnson and his lawyer return to the defendant's table. Johnson feels good about his case. His story is so bizarre, so improbable, there's no way a jury is going to convict him. He has to be telling the truth and the evidence itself is irrefutable. When Johnson was arrested, the police did seize a small piece of cashew. Only a magician could somehow convince a jury that Johnson sold an actual drug. Soon Johnson's lawyer calls up the next witness. The analyst who works at the state's drug testing lab. Johnson turns to see a short woman with long black hair approaching. When she sworn in, she introduces herself. Her name is Annie DeConn. And she's the chemist who tested the sample seized during Johnson's arrest. Johnson's lawyer jumps in with the most obvious question. Asking DeConn whether in her examination, she discovered that the sample from Johnson was in fact a cashew. DeConn pauses. And then with a straight face, she tells the courtroom that it wasn't. The sample was crack cocaine. Both Johnson and his lawyer stare at DeConn stunned. And after Johnson's lawyer repeats the question, DeConn reminds the court that she's a trained chemist. She doesn't have a single doubt about her results. Johnson can't believe what he's hearing. It's outrageous. But even worse, Johnson now realizes he doesn't stand a chance. It's his testimony versus a state chemist. As a former drug user, there's no way the jury's going to believe him. Johnson sinks down into his seat, feeling hopeless and defeated. His case has fallen apart. And while he doesn't know why Annie DeConn has lied, really doesn't matter. Soon, he's going to end up in prison. American scandal 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. 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And with her time stretched in, Ducan's production began to drop and she started to panic. She began dry labbing her work, listing results without running actual tests. And so doing, Ducan managed to keep her numbers high. But increasingly, her colleagues at the lab suspected foul play. And as they began digging into her work, they realized that something had to be done. This is episode two, the log book. It's late 2009 at the Hinton State Laboratory in Boston. Annie Ducan is sitting at her lab bench, arranging plastic baggies filled with a white powder. She opens one of the baggies and scoops out some of the powder onto a glass slide. And after dropping some acid onto the sample, she watches as blue flakes appear. Ducan smiles. With this result, she knows the powder is cocaine. And she can quickly move onto the next sample. But still, it's going to be a long night. She has a large batch of samples she needs to test. And while normally she would dry lab some of the samples, just jotting down results that matched the police's expectations. Tonight, that's not an option. The police don't have any idea what these drugs might be. So Ducan has to go through one by one and test them all. Ducan is about to move onto the next sample. When she hears a ding from her computer, she glances at the screen and finds an email from another chemist. The subject is alarming. No drugs found. Ducan clicks and begins reading. It has to do with the case she handled just yesterday. The police arrested a notorious cocaine dealer and handed over samples to the lab. Ducan had been in a hurry. So instead of testing each of the samples, she dry labed them, declaring they were all cocaine. Then she sent a portion of the samples to another chemist, who ran the powder through a second round of tests. It was all standard procedure. But the second test was run using advanced equipment. And according to this email, that test didn't find any drugs in the sample. The powder was inert. Ducan knows this sometimes happens. Dealers add powder milk or baking soda to bulk up their product, so they often have bags of mystery powder just sitting around. And during the raid, the police might mistakenly see something that's not an illegal drug. But if that's the case, Ducan could be in big trouble. She claimed that she tested the samples and found that they were all cocaine. But the other chemist is now asking her to run the test again. And if she doesn't actual test, instead of guessing the results, she'll reveal that there was something seriously wrong with her first round of work. Ducan knows she could claim that this was an innocent mistake. But some samples got cross contaminated. But that too would be an embarrassment. And it could invite additional scrutiny of her work. That's something Ducan wants to avoid at all costs. Ducan looks around the lab, straining to find a solution. That's when her eyes fall on the white powder she just tested, the sample that turned bright blue. This sample is cocaine. Ducan just ran a test to prove it. And that means it could be the answer to all her problems. She could take this sample, which she knows is cocaine, and perform a swab. She would submit it to her colleague, pretending that it's what she sampled the other day for the other case. It's a desperate gamble. And if anyone went back and tested the original stockpile, the supply that turned out to be inert, Ducan would be caught. She'd lose her job, she could even be charged with a crime. But her colleague needs an answer soon, so there's no time to think of another solution. Ducan grabs one of the test tubes, then taking a deep breath. She sprinkles in some of the white powder she knows is cocaine. Ducan pushes back her chair and starts walking the sample over to the other chemist. She smiles casually, making it seem like the retest is no big deal. She hands over the sample. Her colleague thanks her. Ducan walks back to her desk, trying to seem relaxed and unbothered. But inside her mind is churning. She's done plenty of dry lamin, listing results for tests she did not perform. But Ducan has never deliberately changed the outcome of a test, turning a negative result into a positive. And while she's struggling to accept the consequences of this action, part of her knows it was inevitable. She's already in too deep. And at this point she has to do whatever it takes to avoid getting caught. It's early January 2010 at the Hinton State Drug Lab in Boston. The lab supervisor, Charles Salamy, is sitting in his office working on a grant proposal when he hears a knock on his door. He looks up to find Elizabeth Obrion, an evidence officer with pale blonde hair. Normally, Obrion is all smiles, but today she looks bothered, and that makes Salamy uneasy. As an evidence officer, it's Obrion's job to check drug samples in and out of the lab safe. It's all part of an effort to ensure the integrity of the lab's criminal evidence, making sure drug samples haven't been tampered with. So the entire lab could have a problem. Obrion sits down and sure enough she explains that she's troubled by something. It involves Annie Ducan, the lab star chemist. Obrion explains that she doesn't trust Ducan's work. Her testing rate is through the roof compared to other chemists. And while that should be a cause to celebrate, Obrion fears that Ducan might be rushing and making mistakes. Salamy grimaces as he listens to the concerns. Obrion is right, Ducan is the lab star chemist, a workhorse who never stops producing. Without her, the drug lab would be drowning in samples. The police chief, the mayor, even the governor would be breathing down their necks. So maybe, hopefully, there's a more benign explanation. Salamy gently reminds Obrion that Ducan has faced a lot of personal stress lately. She did have another miscarriage. And if her numbers are a little high, then that probably means she's sinking all her energy into work. There's nothing suspect about that. It's just how she copes. But Obrion shakes her head. She reminds Salamy that he himself once said the chemist should test no more than 350 samples per month. That's the maximum that anyone can process if they want to maintain accurate results. But last year, Ducan tested 900 samples a month, almost three times the maximum amount. And that was even with the Supreme Court ruling, which forced staff to testify in court about their work, taking up valuable time. Everyone else's numbers dropped. But Ducan's barely took a hit. Something doesn't add up. Salamy's mouth goes dry as he absorbs the details. 900 samples does seem too good to be true. So we ask Obrion whether she's sure about two constumbers. Was she really averaging 900 a month? Obrion nods solemnly. She's certain. She's never seen such a wide discrepancy of production between staff. With a grave expression, Salamy thanks her and says he'll look into the matter. But Obrion remains seated. She makes another announcement. She wants to take the matter to Salamy's boss, Julie Nasef. Salamy shakes his head saying that's not necessary. They don't need to turn this into something bigger than it actually is. He'll figure it out one way or the other. But Obrion insists that they raise the issue with the lab senior managers. If Ducan is making mistakes, the entire lab's reputation is at risk, and court cases could be in jeopardy. As the lab supervisor, Nasef should be alerted as soon as possible. Salamy doesn't want to mess on his hands. Any disruption to any Ducan's work could set the lab back, leading to a spike in the backlog. Ducan is single handedly keeping the lab above water. But Obrion won't relent. So Salamy agrees. He'll talk to Nasef. He'll do it first thing tomorrow. Obrion is finally satisfied and gets up and leaves the office. Sitting alone, Salamy stares out the window at the falling snow. Obrion might be right. 900 samples a month is alarmingly high. He knows he has to confront Ducan, but somehow, without upsetting her. Several weeks later, any Ducan finishes some paperwork and gets ready to head home. It's been another productive day at the drug testing lab, and Ducan is excited to finally spend some time playing with her son. But just as Ducan is wrapping up the door to her lab station opens, she turns to find her boss, Charles Salamy, standing in the doorway, in his hands as a stack of papers. Hey Annie, how's my rock start doing? I'm okay Charles. What's going on? It's late in the day. I was hoping to take off in just a minute. I'll meet you, but this can't wait. Oh, okay. Well, come in. Salamy grabs a chair. As he sits down, Ducan notices that her boss seems off. The skin is pale and he has bags under his eyes, like he hasn't been sleeping. Look, Annie, I have not been looking forward to this conversation. And there's no easy way to put it, but there have been concerns raised about your work. What about it? I'm just fastest person here. Even with all the time I have to spend going to court. Well, Annie, that is actually the issue. People have been talking about your speed and how many samples you test. What's the problem? My speed is the reason we've been gaining on the entire backlog. I realize that we both know you're a great chemist, but some concerns have been raised. By who? Who's complaining? Salamy shifts in his seat, avoiding eye contact with Ducan. No, it doesn't matter who, but upper management wanted to be absolutely certain that nothing was wrong. They have to protect the reputation of the lab. I know you understand. And so, even though I didn't want to, and I promised I really didn't, I was forced to audit your work. I've been going over your forms from the last month, and I put it all together in this report here. Ducan freezes in panic. As her boss slides report across her desk, she knows there's a lot she's done that could get her fired, or even thrown in prison. She thought she covered her tracks. But if her boss retested some of her samples, he might be able to put two and two together. Annie, hey, you look like you've seen a ghost. You okay? I'm not sure what to say. Well, don't say anything. You don't have to read the report because I'll tell you what I found. Okay, look, there were a few instances where you didn't calibrate things as carefully as you should have. I do want to go over those. But Annie, yeah, you're still a rock star, so don't worry. Take a look. Salami reaches out and flips open the report. And for the next few minutes, he pages through each of the printouts, which highlights some of her mistakes. But it quickly becomes apparent, Salami is only accusing her of minor infractions. Not only that, he only audited her paperwork. He didn't retest a single one of her samples. There's no way he's aware of what she's done. Soon, Salami wraps up the discussion. And while DuConn wants to celebrate, she makes sure to look chasing, keeping her eyes downcast. She apologizes to her boss for slipping up a few times, and putting him in this position. She says she knows that, like everyone, he's got a plate that's more than full. Salami smiles accepting the apology. But reminding her, she can't get sloppy. DuConn needs to remember to work both quickly and accurately. But knowing her skill, Salami is sure that won't be an issue going forward. Then he rises, patched DuConn on the shoulder, and steps out of the lab station. DuConn is alone, once again. Her heart is pounding, and she feels dizzy from the emotional whiplash. But only one thing matters. Now one suspects a thing. A moment later, DuConn grabs her keys and heads for the door. She's taking off early. And that won't be a problem. Because today, she learned a valuable lesson. As long as the paperwork looks good, and the higher up stay happy, no one will ever ask too many questions. 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. Once you've set the date, you can send your save the dates and invitations right on Zola too. There's so many great designs to choose from. 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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 a December morning in Boston in 2010. Inside the Hinton State Drug Lab, a chemist named Michael Lawler hunches over his lab bench hard at work. Or at least Lawler hopes it looks like he's working because the truth is right now he's waiting, keeping an eye on the office, hoping that his boss Charles Salamy will soon walk by. Lawler lingers, fighting the rising feeling of anciness, when suddenly Salamy heads through the lab on his way to the break room. This is what Lawler has been waiting for. He sets down a pipette, removes his goggles, and strips off his gloves. A minute later he enters the break room and sials up next to his boss. Lawler is a senior chemist and he wishes he didn't have to ambush his boss like this. But it's been hard for him to find time with Salamy and he badly needs to have a conversation about something that has him worried. So Lawler approaches the coffee pot and lowering his voice. He tells Salamy that he wants to chat about Annie DuConn. His boss looks up from his own cup of coffee, racing an eyebrow. For Lawler, this conversation is uncomfortable, but he has to speak candidly. He cares about the lab and the consequences of doing nothing are too great. So keeping his voice low, Lawler asks if they could go somewhere a little more private, like a conference room. Salamy looks impatient, like he doesn't want to have this conversation. But he agrees, and a moment later the two step into a quiet space. As soon as Lawler closes the door behind him, he explains what's on his mind. He's been tallying everyone's testing numbers for the year, and Annie DuConn's numbers seem ridiculously high. Salamy takes a sip of coffee. And to Lawler's surprise, he says he's already heard this. He agrees that DuConn sometimes rushes things, at times she's gotten sloppy. But Salamy explains, he's performed an audit of her work, and overall everything looks just fine. Hearing this, Lawler shakes his head in protest. He's a senior chemist, a leader in the lab. If DuConn was merely rushing her work, he'd talk to her directly. That's not the problem. The issue Lawler says is that it seems like something much more sinister as it play. Lawler worries DuConn is committing fraud. At the word fraud, Lawler sees Salamy's whole body go rigid. He knows he's just made a serious accusation, and against the superstar of the office. By all accounts, upper management seems to love Annie DuConn, their most productive chemist by far. With his brows furrowed, Salamy tells Lawler that if he's going to raise those kinds of grave possibilities, he better have proof. Lawler wavers for a moment, and admits he only has circumstantial evidence. But it is still deeply concerning. DuConn is testing five times as many samples as the average chemist in the lab. She's hitting those high numbers despite having missed the equivalent of a month of work for court days. By that math alone, there is no way DuConn could be performing all the tests she claims to be. So there's only one explanation. She's drylabbing. Guessing the results for tests, she never actually runs. Hearing the accusation, Salamy's nostrils flare. He tells Lawler that he audited DuConn and that's the end of the conversation. He's not going to smear the lab's top chemist just because of some allegations. Salamy then pushes past Lawler and leaves a conference room. Standing alone, Lawler's face grows flushed. This is maddening. Salamy is one of the leaders of the lab. Yet he has blinders on. It's the most blatant kind of confirmation bias. Something a scientist should be trained to overcome. But Salamy is too invested in believing that nothing is amiss with his superstar chemist. Part of Lawler thinks he should let it go. Because even if Salamy is looking away from a concerning problem, he is right. Lawler doesn't have any proof of wrongdoing. But the more Lawler thinks about it, the more he can't let it go. If DuConn is faking test results, she could be putting innocent people in prison. It's unacceptable. So if upper management needs proof before they'll intervene, then Lawler would just have to find it. It's a few months later in a windy spring evening in Boston. Across the street from the Hinton Drug Lab, Michael Lawler sits in his car waiting with the lights off. He stares out the windows, watching the last few workers trickle out through the lab's front door. It's been a while since Lawler himself walked out, but he knows he has to be patient. Because he needs to make sure everyone has left the lab before sneaking back inside. Finally, Lawler sees the windows of the lab go dark. He waits a couple more minutes, and then he peers over the dashboard and surveys the parking lot. It's empty. And that means it's time to head back in so he can find evidence proving Andy DuConn is committing a crime. Lawler steps out of his car and hurries across the street. And when he steps inside the lab, he finds the hallway dark, lit by only a few security lights. But Lawler doesn't want to turn on the overheads and risk being seen. So he stops through the lab in the shadows, like a thief. Soon he approaches room 326 and opens the door. Straight ahead is Andy DuConn's lab bench. Lawler gazes around at the lab station. Besides her desk, DuConn has pictures of her son. There's also a half eaten bag of chocolate. Nothing looks out of the ordinary. But Lawler knows there has to be something. Something he can take to upper management as proof of her wrongdoings. So he begins snooping around. Lawler heads over to the supply closet where DuConn keeps the chemicals used for testing drugs. Peering inside, Lawler begins picking up bottles, holding them up to the dim light. And strange, if DuConn really is running all the test she claims, she should be low on several chemicals. But every bottle seems nearly full. It's almost as though DuConn is hardly using any chemicals at all. For a moment, Lawler feels thrilled. This could be it. The evidence that DuConn isn't doing required tests. But after thinking it through, Lawler is less certain. DuConn could have recently got a set of new supplies, or she could claim that in her own defense. Lawler knows he needs stronger evidence. His eyes drift towards DuConn's discard bin. Each chemist in the lab has one. After running tests, the chemists are supposed to throw their used glass lines into their plastic bins and move onto their next tests. Based on DuConn's testing numbers, her discard bin should be overflowing. But when Lawler picks it up, all he hears is a quiet tinkling of glass. He removes the lid and looks inside. What he sees makes his heart pound. The bin is mostly empty. So if this is all DuConn has thrown away, she really must be drylaming, and barely running a single test at all. Lawler places the bin back down, his hand shaking. Then he takes one final glance around the lab station, making sure he hasn't disturbed anything. He can't let Annie DuConn know he was here, because he's going to have to come back and check again on both the chemicals and slides. Several weeks later, Michael Lawler sits down with an official who represents the union for chemists. Lawler, himself a senior chemist at Annie DuConn's lab, has been looking forward to this meeting for days. He's continued sneaking into DuConn's lab station and taking note of her chemical supply and the glass slides in her discard bin. At this point, the evidence is clear. There's no chance that DuConn is running all the tests she claims to be running, which is exactly why Lawler called this meeting. He does not have faith that managers at the Hinton lab will do anything to stop DuConn. So he's going to try and convince a union official to look into the matter himself, and hopefully take some kind of meaningful action. As the meeting begins, the union official adjusts his tie and shoots Lawler a look of curiosity. Mr. Lawler, thank you for contacting me. It's always good to meet with one of our top chemists, but I'm not exactly sure what we're doing here. Can you fill me in? Yeah, of course, and thank you for meeting me. I know this doesn't happen every day, but I felt the need to mention my concerns about someone at my lab. Her name is Andy DuConn, and I have reason to believe she's committing fraud. Fraud. You're talking about someone who's responsible for testing drugs. Yeah. Andy DuConn is actually something, well, she's a star at Hinton. She has the highest testing numbers of any of the chemists by far, but I've gathered some strong evidence proving she's not actually running the tests. Oh, I see. But Mr. Lawler, that's a big accusation. Are you sure? Are you spending your entire day watching her work? No, no, I can't afford to do that. I've got my own tests run. So what is the proof? Well, like I said, her testing numbers are far, far above anyone else's, but if you look at her supplies, things don't add up. Her chemical bottles sit unused. Her discard bin is empty, which you think is proof that she's not actually running tests. That's exactly the conclusion I came to. The official pauses biting his lip. Mr. Lawler, are you telling me that you've been going through this woman's lab station? Yes, yeah, but I haven't disturbed or taken anything. I've just made observations, and you have not reported this to your boss. I've tried, but you won't listen. I think he's protecting her. Okay. One more question. Is Annie DuCon a member of the union? I think so. One. I ask because if she is, I'm obligated to warn you. You can't defame her and jeopardize her employment. At this sudden turn, Lawler is taking her back. I'm not defaming her. I'm telling you, there's a very high likelihood she's committing fraud. So you say, yes, so I say. But if I'm right, and I think I am, she could be sending innocent people to jail. Again, Mr. Lawler, remember that you are speaking to a representative of the union. I need to remind you that hearsay like this could damage her career. It's not hearsay. I've seen it with my own eyes. After snooping around in her office without her permission, while their shakes is head. You can't believe what he's hearing. Look, I came to you because someone needs to take action and so far no one at the lab will do anything. Well, I'm sorry, Mr. Lawler, but I'm not going to be able to help you. If she's a member of the union, then it's my duty to protect her legal rights. Beyond that, I can't take signs. And I hope you understand. Official rises, and without saying another word, he walks away. Lawler sits back, stunned. For a few minutes, he doesn't know what to do. No one even seems to care that innocent people could be going to prison, all because of a reckless chemist. It's enough to make Lawler feel hopeless. He's talked to his boss, and now he's talked to the union. And still, despite all of his warnings, Andy Dukon will be able to keep working or not working. For a moment, Lawler considers calling in sick to work. He's not sure he can face the lab right now. But then, he remembers who he is. Lawler is a scientist, and if there's one thing he knows how to do, it's gathered data. So he'll keep watching Andy Dukon, keep gathering evidence of her fraud. And if there's ever a chance to reveal her crimes to the world, Lawler will be ready. If you're into true crime, the Generation Y podcast is essential listening. We started this podcast over 10 years ago to dissect some of the craziest and most notable murders, crimes, and conspiracy theories together. And we'd love for you to join us. Generation Y is one of the longest running true crime podcasts out there. And we are still at it, unraveling a new case every week. We break down infamous cases like the Evil Genius Bank robbery, and lesser known cases like the case of Kimberly Rico. Did she actually kill her husband after they took part in a murder mystery game? We cover every angle, breaking down theories, diving deep into forensic evidence, and interviewing those close to the case. And with over 450 episodes, there's a little something for every true crime listener. Follow the Generation Y podcast on Amazon Music or every listen to podcasts, or you can listen ad free by joining Wondery Plus in the Wondery app. It's June 16, 2011 in Boston. Inside the Hinton Drug Lab's evidence office, a large metal door swings open and Elizabeth Obrion enters. The evidence office looks like any other office. There are desks and computers, and some of the staff have pinned up their personal memorabilia. But it does have one unusual feature, a giant walk in safe. And as supervisor of this room, Obrion's entire job revolve around that safe and everything inside it. Drugs like heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy, evidence that was seized from alleged criminals, which needs to be tested. Because these samples are all considered criminal evidence, they have to be meticulously tracked and stored. It's the only way to avoid mixups or any kind of tampering. And that's why access to the safe is also tightly controlled. And why Obrion needs to make sure the safe is locked up. As she finishes securing the safe, there's a knock on the door. Obrion turns and sees a junior evidence officer. Hey, Elizabeth, can we talk for a second? Yeah, of course, everything alright. I'm having issues with the database. I'm trying to finalize some records from two days ago, but sometimes not making sense. Oh, what's going on? That's weird. In the computer system, there's one part of these records that's always blank. The name of the chemist who checked out the samples and tested them. Oh, yeah, that. We've had issues with the database. But that's not the biggest problem. I mean, I can do things manually and just look at the card that chemists had to fill out. It would be easier if the name just showed up in the computer system like it's supposed to. Yes, of course. And I'm sorry about the extra work. Which chemists are showing up blank? Annie DuConn? As soon as Obrion hears the name Annie DuConn, she frowns. Last year, she pushed her boss Charles Salamy to investigate DuConn. She'd been alarmed by how quickly the chemist was churning through samples. And while Salamy conducted an audit, as far as Obrion could tell, it was superficial and didn't actually exonerate DuConn at all. So a few moments later, Obrion pulls up the database and begins poking around. But after a few minutes, she can't tell whether the blank spaces are just a glitch in the system or something else. So Obrion does a little more digging. She gets up and checks the evidence log book near the walking safe. If DuConn checked out a drug sample, it should be noted in the ledger, along with initials from an evidence officer. But what Obrion discovers makes her uneasy. She finds the badge DuConn was potentially working with. At least, that's what the database indicates. It involves 90 drug samples. But when she looks at the ledger, she finds there's no signature from an evidence officer. And that means there's no official record that DuConn checked out the samples. Obrion grows increasingly alarmed. It's possible this is just a bureaucratic mistake that Annie DuConn didn't actually get access to the drugs. She couldn't have, without authorization from an evidence officer. But Obrion can't be sure. So she takes out her keys from her pocket and heads over to the walk in safe. Obrion unlocks it and when she arrives at the shelf where the drug should be located, she finds it's completely empty. The site takes her breath away. Somehow, drugs got out of the safe and into Annie DuConn's hands without any evidence officer being aware of it. It's a serious breach of protocol. Obrion isn't sure what's going on, but she does know she needs to tell her supervisor Charles Salamy. They need to get to the bottom of this. Five days later, Annie DuConn sits down at her desk and fires up her computer. It's the start of the day and DuConn is feeling refreshed, ready to make quick progress on all the drug samples waiting for her. But just as she's about to start working, she notices an email from her supervisor, Charles Salamy. It was sent late yesterday after she left the lab. Apparently, it's something urgent. Salamy wants to talk about some drug samples that weren't properly signed out. He wants to meet first thing. As she rereads the email, DuConn's palms grow hot and sweaty. She knows this is bad news. She has to think fast. The truth is DuConn committed a serious breach. Anytime you check out a sample for testing, it's supposed to be approved and noted by an evidence officer. But the whole process can be slow and laborious. When DuConn finishes with a batch of samples, she watches the start on the next batch immediately. It's a way to save time. But sometimes the evidence officers are at lunch or have gone home for the night and they can't sign out the samples. These kind of hiccups slow her down, so DuConn has come up with a shortcut. She's been taking samples without permission. In her mind, there's nothing wrong with what she's doing. It's more efficient. But the evidence officers are strict about the wearabouts of drugs. If they find out she's been taking samples without authorization, it could mean a serious reprimand. Maybe even a suspension. DuConn reads Salamy's email again, trying to figure out a solution. The big issue seems to be the missing initials in the logbook. It's a matter of paperwork. And then DuConn realizes there's an easy and straightforward solution. DuConn looks around the lab. It's still early in the morning and no one else is here. So DuConn hurries over to the evidence office. As she steps in to the empty room, she spots the evidence logbook waiting in the open. DuConn picks it up, begins flipping through to the prior week. That was the last time she remembers taking samples without approval. And that day, all the other samples were signed out with the initials GP, short for Gloria Phillips, one of the evidence officers. For a moment, DuConn studies the looping letters G and P on the page. Her heart begins to race as she realizes what she needs to do. She doesn't hesitate. DuConn grabs a nearby pen. And then she starts copying the initials into the blank spaces one after the other, making it seem like DuConn did get approval to remove the drugs. And that once again, the paperwork proves there's no reason for anyone to be worried. An hour later, Elizabeth Obrion steps into the evidence office at Hinton Lab. Obrion looks up at the clock. In 20 minutes, she's going to be meeting with Andy DuConn. Obrion isn't looking forward to a confrontation, but she has to figure out what's going on. How DuConn managed to check out 90 samples of drugs without permission. Getting those answers is crucial. If DuConn broke protocol, the lab's integrity could be tarnished. There could be accusations of evidence tampering, and that could affect the outcome of court cases and real lives. Obrion grabs the evidence lockbook which demonstrates that DuConn somehow got the drug samples without authorization from an evidence officer. But as Obrion reviews the letter, Obrion goes wide. There, in a series of previously empty spaces are now the initials G and P. Obrion stares in disbelief. These boxes, she knows, were blank just yesterday. This doesn't make any sense. Obrion tries to think through the possibilities. Maybe the evidence officer forgot to sign the lockbook when she first authorized DuConn to check out the samples. And in that case, maybe she went back after the fact and signed her initials to cover herself. But that doesn't make sense either. GP, Gloria Phillips, has a son who's terminally ill, and she's mostly been on leave taking care of him. She only worked one day last week. Otherwise, she hasn't been in the office at all. She couldn't have signed the lockbook since Obrion last saw the blank entries. So Obrion considers another more upsetting possibility, and she flips through the lockbook, gazes at another example of Phillips initials from a wild bag. Obrion knows that these ones are authentic, and she flips the pages back to the new initials and compares the two. At first glance, they do look the same, but the longer Obrion stares at the new initials, the more she realizes they don't quite match. The handwriting is clearly different. Someone has forged these initials. Obrion believes she knows exactly who's guilty. From Wondering, this is episode two of Frog in a Drug Lab from American Scam. In our next episode, the investigation into Annie DuConn grows larger, and as the evidence piles up, DuConn finds she has nowhere left to hide. 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 Wondering Plus in Apple Podcasts or in the Wondering 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 this show is by filling out a small survey at Wondering.com slash survey to 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 DuConn 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 host Edited and Executive 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 Malsberg. Our senior producer is Gabe Ribbon, Executive Producer, our Stephanie Jens, Jenny Lauer Beckman, and Marshall Lui for Wondering.