SFPD Drug Lab Theft Probe Comes 2 Months Late

By Jessica Greene
|  Monday, Mar 15, 2010  |  Updated 7:00 AM PDT
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SFPD Drug Lab Theft Probe Comes 2 Months Late

NBC Bay Area

Retired SFPD lab tech Deborah Madden is accused of stealing cocaine evidence for her own use.

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There's more heat coming from a case involving a San Francisco Police Department drug lab technician accused of stealing narcotics evidence from the lab.

It took San Francisco police detectives two months to launch a criminal investigation into drug lab tech Deborah Madden, even though her sister had alerted authorities she was suspicious Madden had taken cocaine from the lab two months earlier.

Madden's sister found cocaine in what appeared to be a lab vial at Madden's San Mateo house in December. Madden was away at an alcohol treatment program at the time, the Chronicle found. She contacted the police lab and handed the vial over to Madden's rehab counselor, who destroyed it.

Madden's boss sent a memo to the risk management section of the department about the sister's suspicions but the letter was not sent to the chief's office. Instead, Chief George Gascon found out about the suspected skimming on Feb. 22. There's now an investigation into that delay, in addition to the drug lab theft allegation probe.

Madden told investigators that she started using cocaine in October and only used the residue that was left on the wax paper techs used when weiging the narcotocis. She has not been charged with a crime associated with the suspected evidence theft but on March 3, she was cuffed over a violation of a previous domestic violence arrest.

The San Francisco public defender's office says the delay may have doomed scores of narcotics prosecutions in the City because drugs were tested at the lab after suspicions cropped up about the technician, and the police department's ability to ensure the integrity of seized evidence.

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