Embroiled lab tech cashing in

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The veteran drug tester at the Police Department’s crime lab, whose alleged tampering has prompted the dismissal of 550 drug cases with nearly a thousand more at risk, will start collecting a city-subsidized pension this week.

Deborah Madden, 60, has admitted to stealing drug evidence from the crime lab where she was employed for 30 years, according to police. Yet she is set to receive her first monthly pension payment of $5,485, according to Gary Amelio, executive director of the San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System. Madden was granted retirement benefits effective March 1, according to Amelio. It amounts to an annual payout of exactly $65,823 for the remainder of her life.

After it was discovered that Madden was allegedly skimming trace amounts of cocaine from samples at the lab for personal use for many months, police Chief George Gascón was forced to shut down the facility March 9. As a result, hundreds of drug cases have not been charged and hundreds more dating back to 2006 are being dismissed — putting drug-crime suspects back on the streets.

However, Madden has yet to be charged for her crime and is collecting a pension subsidized by taxpayer dollars.

“She has not been arrested for anything in San Francisco,” said police Lt. Lyn Tomioka. “The reason is because the investigation is still ongoing.”

As hundreds of suspects go free, District Attorney Kamala Harris’ office said charges have not been filed against Madden as it waits for more information from the Police Department.

“The District Attorney’s Office is waiting on police to finish their criminal investigation and then present the case to prosecutors, who will then make a charging decision,” District Attorney’s Office spokesman Brian Buckelew said.

Madden’s attorney, Paul DeMeester, offered a different perspective. Since there are a number of cases where she did provide testimony, which are being looked at by prosecutors and defense attorneys for dismissal, the District Attorney’s Office is in a tough legal bind.

“They cannot, on one hand, consider prosecuting her while on the other hand use her as an expert witness,” DeMeester said.

Buckelew said there is no such conflict.

“We obviously have no intention of calling Debbie Madden as an expert witness in any criminal case,” he said.

A city retiree’s taxpayer portion of their pension can be yanked if the retiree is found guilty of a crime involving “moral turpitude” on the job. The retiree does not lose the money that they contributed from each paycheck, but The City can withdraw its contribution.

The District Attorney’s Office is expected to announce, as soon as today, that it is dropping as many as 1,000 drug cases related to the lab debacle.

Meanwhile, Madden is expected to be arraigned Monday in San Mateo County for a weapons charge related to a search warrant executed at her home March 3. 

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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