Texas Department of Public Safety officials were aware of security breaches in the handling of their drug evidence as far back as 2003, says the Houston Chronicle. The problems included failure to log evidence out of storage, containers of marijuana left open, and the lack of a monitoring system for a high-security drug vault. Last week, a technician at the state’s Houston crime lab was arrested after an investigation discovered he apparently had for years sold cocaine smuggled out of the lab. Jesus Hinojosa Jr., 30, told the Chronicle it was easy to smuggle the drugs. About 57 pounds of cocaine are missing from the Houston lab.
In an audit of the Houston lab last year, an inspector wrote that “evidence transfers are not always entered into the laboratory database as required by policy.” A 2003 inspection of the Houston crime lab criticized the backlog of evidence – some 10 to 15 years old – that should have been destroyed. In a 2004 inspection of the state’s Austin lab, investigators took issue with the handling of evidence in the bulk marijuana storage vault. “(N)umerous bundles of evidence had not been sealed after analysis,” the report says. “Cuts into the bundles were made at the time of the examinations and there were no attempts to seal the openings. Marijuana could be removed without detection from these bundles.”