The newest true crime docu-series on Netflix that needs to be on your to-watch list is How to Fix a Drug Scandal, a shocking look into how two drug lab chemists purposely tampered with evidence over the course of many years — and affected tens of thousands of court cases. Over 40,000 drug convictions were dismissed due to Annie Dookhan and Sonja Farak’s criminal misconduct (both were convicted for their crimes). While Dookhan contaminated evidence in the favour of the prosecution, Farak smoked it. Since Farak makes one half of the scandal, here’s what you need to know about what she did and where she is now.
What Did Sonja Farak Do, Exactly?
Per her own court testimony, as shown in the docu-series, Farak started working at a state drug lab in Amherst in 2004. From 2004 to 2013, Farak took advantage of the lab’s lack of supervision and stole the drugs cops had confiscated. Every single day, Farak would get high; the chemist used the bathroom to smoke crack and the lab facilities to cook more. Not only was she under the influence of drugs while at work for about nine years, but she was also under the influence when she took the stand in 2013.
Farak stole the drugs (mainly meth, cocaine, and crack cocaine) because she was addicted. Rolling Stone covered both drug lab scandals in 2018 and uncovered that Farak had suffered from depression for many years. In high school, she nearly died by suicide, and in college Farak was hospitalised. Although she found a passion for science, graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and landed a job at the Amherst state drug lab, Farak still felt “alien and unseen, a ghost floating through her own life,” per Rolling Stone. So she turned to drugs, which were incredibly easy to procure.
In order to cover her tracks, per Rolling Stone and the Netflix doc, Farak would add ersatz powder to some of the drug samples she used. Farak was smoking crack 10 to 12 times a day.
The hammer came down, so to speak, when it was discovered Farak had been high when testing drug samples from Renaldo Penate’s case. Penate had been arrested in 2011 for selling heroin. The day Farak was supposed to analyse the sample, she wrote in her diary, “tried to resist [using] @ work but ended up failing,” per the Washington Post. When testing Penate’s sample a second time, Farak had taken LSD and “the sensation of colors in the wind left her unable to function for work.” Still, when Penate's lawyers inquired about Farak’s drug usage, the Massachusetts state prosecutors refused to give up information. Penate ended up serving close to six years in prison. Moreover, more than 24,000 cases ended up being dismissed due to Farak's misconduct.
The problem went beyond Farak, which How to Fix a Drug Scandal deeply explores. The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office purposely hid information about Farak’s misconduct and allowed defendants to be sent to prison even though the evidence presented in court was tampered with. According to the Washington Post, a judge who had looked into the case in 2016 described the prosecutors’ actions “intentional, repeated, prolonged and deceptive withholding of evidence from the defendants.”
In 2014, Farak was found guilty of tampering with evidence, possession of illegal drugs, and stealing cocaine from the lab. She was given an 18-month sentence, along with five years of probation.
Where Is Sonja Farak Now?