SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

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September 26, 2012

Chemist's education questioned in scandal

(Continued)

“We have no record of her doing subsequent graduate work at our campus,” Lehman said.

The registrar’s office at UMass-Boston also said it had no record of her receiving a master’s degree, as did officials at UMass campuses in Lowell, North Dartmouth and Amherst. The Worcester campus does not offer a master’s degree program in chemistry.

A spokesman for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, which had overseen the lab, said Dookhan deliberately misled officials about her qualifications. He said she was hired Nov. 3, 2003, for a Chemist I position after meeting the minimum entrance requirements and was reclassified a Chemist II two years later.

“While neither of the positions she held required a Master’s Degree, it is now clear that she intentionally misled the Department about her education during the course of her employment,” HHS communications director Alec Loftus said in a written statement.

Blue was convicted of trafficking between 14 and 28 grams of cocaine, a drug violation in a school zone, possession of marijuana and weapons charges. He was sentenced to 10 years and one day in prison.

Blue’s trial lawyer, Arnold Abelow, said that if Dookhan lied about her education, it calls her testimony about the drugs into question.

“If she’s fudging her qualifications as being an expert, then how can you trust her analysis of the drugs?” Abelow said.

State police have not said what Dookhan did wrong at the lab.

But Max Stern, president of the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said he was told in a meeting with Gov. Deval Patrick and other administration officials that Dookhan is accused of deliberately tampering with some drug samples, including the weight of the samples, which can affect the length of prison sentences given to people convicted of drug offenses.

Attorney General Martha Coakley is conducting a criminal investigation. Dookhan has not been charged.

Investigators have not described Dookhan’s possible motive for mishandling drug samples. It’s also unclear why she would fabricate having a master’s degree.

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