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'How To Fix A Drug Scandal' On Netflix: Where Is Sonja Farak Now?

Photo: Netflix
'How To Fix A Drug Scandal' On Netflix: Where Is Sonja Farak Now?

Netflix just keeps delivering the kind of riveting content we all need in these days of coronavirus isolation. This week, they have dropped yet another documentary about a real-life story that almost defies belief. This time, they're sharing the story of a crime lab chemist who was caught using the drugs she was supposed to analyze. 

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In How To Fix A Drug Scandal, we learn about Sonja Farak, who was arrested in 2013 on counts of evidence tampering. She was caught with evidence files under her desk, including unsealed envelopes of drugs. Investigators also found a crack pipe, and materials for making fake drugs, which she used to replace the drugs she stole. 

The resulting trial revealed that she had been stealing and ingesting drugs for years. It's bad enough that she was stealing drugs but the evidence tampering she did called into question tens of thousands of drug convictions from her entire career. 

Where is Sonja Farak now? 

But first: Who is Sonja Farak?

Farak was born in San Diego where her father was stationed with the Navy. He was reassigned when she was very young and the family moved to Rhode Island, where she stayed until she completed high school. She was a high achiever both academically and athletically; she was the first girl in the state to play high school football and she was the co-valedictorian of her high school. She went on to Worcester Polytechnic Institute where she majored in biochemistry. After college, she got a job with the drug lab in Boston, where she was a chemist analyzing drug evidence.

She asked for a transfer to Amherst after a few years.

The other drug lab for Massachusetts was located all the way across the state on the campus of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. It was a much smaller facility but the less urban region with a lower cost of living appealed to Farak. She asked for a transfer and it was granted to her. She and her partner, whom she had been with since college, moved to Amherst where they were able to purchase a house. 

Her first foray into drugs was pure liquid methamphetamine.

In a recreation of Farak's trial testimony, the series shows her talking about how she got started using drugs. She explained that the lab kept samples of pure drugs for comparison with seized evidence. Farak says she was curious about meth and had been for a long time, thinking it was a drug that might help her mental state. According to some reports, she had struggled with depression throughout her life and had even attempted suicide at one time. She knew about meth from reading about it and wondered if it would give her mood a lift. She stole a pipet of the pure meth oil from the lab one day, took it, and set off a chain of events that would lead her to prison. 


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The new series was released this week on Netflix.

She continued using drugs — from the lab where she worked — for nine years.

For nearly a decade, Farak would keep taking drugs. She moved from meth to cocaine and crack. She regularly took drugs from the evidence she was handling and used it while actually on the premises of the state drug lab. She would replace the stolen substances with fake powders and hide them away in the files. All along the way, she was continuing to do lab analysis of evidence in criminal cases. Her signature was on tens of thousands of reports that led to convictions and jail time for countless people. Never mind she was high when she did the work, at times she was sampling the evidence she was supposed to be analyzing. Maybe the most shocking part is that no one at the lab caught on to what was happening. At least not until 2013. 

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A co-worker found her crack pipe under her desk.

One of Farak's responsibilities was to testify in court and she was away from her desk doing that one day when a colleague needed some evidence and couldn't find it. A hunt around Farak's desk revealed the paperwork as well as two empty bags that should have contained cocaine. The staff at the lab also discovered a crack pipe and materials for making fake drugs. They called in the state authorities who dispatched a trooper to track down Farak at the courthouse, question her, and eventually arrest her. 

She pleaded guilty in 2014. 

Farak ultimately pleaded guilty in 2014 and was sentenced to 18 months. She was released from prison in 2015 and tries to stay out of the spotlight now. She was interviewed for the series and told director Erin Lee Carr that she remains sober these days. "She isn't on drugs anymore, and I think that that is incredible," Carr says.
"[Farak] was somebody that dealt with a very intense, high-level addiction, faced a lot of legal consequences, and the fact that she is still living and shaking and figuring stuff out... I find that everyone needs to be given a second chance."

But her story is far from over; because she was on drugs and stealing from evidence thousands of convictions she was involved in have been called into question. She is currently being sued by people her testimony helped to convict.

You can watch her whole story on Netflix's How To Fix A Drug Scandal

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Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. She is the creator of the blog FeminXer and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.