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Lab troubles were known but unreported

A file photo of the Nassau County police

A file photo of the Nassau County police crime lab in Mineola. Photo Credit: NCPD

A Nassau police crime lab supervisor discovered in August that its drug-testing unit had made mistakes analyzing illegal substances in nine criminal cases, but did not report the problems until December, the lab's new director said.

Lab director Pasquale Buffolino, who told Newsday of the four-month delay, would not name the supervisor.

Buffolino said the lab supervisor revealed testing problems with the drugs ecstasy and ketamine a few days after he took over the troubled lab in December following the removal of the former director.

Buffolino said the supervisor told him he had been doing an "audit" of ecstasy cases when he discovered the problems. Buffolino said he did not know the reason for the audit.

Buffolino said the supervisor told him the lab didn't have on hand the chemical powder used as a control to retest the drugs, and it needed to be ordered. Such substances are used in drug testing to determine the purity of drugs seized in criminal cases.

But, Buffolino said, the supervisor said the order was never placed, which meant the drugs could not be retested.

"He didn't report it [before December]," Buffolino said. "I can't answer as to why."

Buffolino did not return calls Tuesday seeking further information about the lab supervisor's account.

In December, a national accreditation group placed the lab on probation after finding multiple procedural problems. But the accrediting group, which had put the lab on probation once before, did not catch the drug-testing issue, Buffolino said.

Buffolino said when he learned of the problem with the nine cases, he sent the evidence to the Suffolk County crime lab for retesting, which confirmed the Nassau lab's procedural errors. Upon receiving those results earlier this month, he said, he notified the accrediting group and the offices of District Attorney Kathleen Rice and County Executive Edward Mangano.

Rice spokeswoman Carole Trottere would not confirm Tuesday whether Buffolino had informed the district attorney that the testing problems dated back to August.

A Mangano spokeswoman did not respond directly when asked Tuesday whether the county executive knew the testing problems reached that far back.

"Our first order of business is to correct the issues with the Nassau County crime lab so that we can restore the credibility of evidence testing," Katie Grilli-Robles said. "We will conduct an investigation to determine the root cause of all issues that have come to light."

Nassau police spokesman Det. Lt. Kevin Smith said he had no information concerning when the lab's drug-testing problem was discovered.

Last week, after officials disclosed the ketamine and ecstasy testing problems, they shut down the lab's drug-testing unit.

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