- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2015

A former FBI agent was charged in federal court Friday with 64 criminal offenses related to the theft of heroin seized as evidence in drug investigations the bureau conducted in the D.C. region.

The investigation and charges brought against the agent, 33-year-old Matthew Lowry, have led federal prosecutors to dismiss criminal charges against 26 defendants and abandon at least five major drug investigations.

The thefts came to light last year after Mr. Lowry was discovered unconscious and slumped over in his car after overdosing on heroin, according to investigators and his defense attorney. Empty bags thought to have contained heroin were found inside the vehicle.

Mr. Lowry was charged in U.S. District Court for the District but D.C. prosecutors have recused themselves from the case, allowing the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to handle the case. Mr. Lowry was charged through a criminal information on 64 counts including 20 counts of obstruction of justice, 18 counts of falsification of records, 13 counts of conversion of property, and 13 counts of possession of heroin. His attorney Robert Bonsib said Friday that his client intends to plead guilty to the charges.

According to Mr. Bonsib, he used the heroin as a pain medication substitute after he became unable to obtain prescription pain killers that he became addicted to while treating a long-standing medical condition.

Prosecutors said Mr. Lowry would check the heroin bags out of the Washington Field Office’s evidence control center for weeks at a time, providing false explanations for taking the evidence. He would use the heroin and then cover his tracks, would replace the missing volume of heroin with protein supplement powders before returning it to the evidence room.

The case exposed lax evidence-handling protocol within the FBI, including the fact that no surveillance cameras are used in the agency’s evidence control room in the District.

Mr. Lowry, who worked on an FBI Cross-Border Task Force that investigated drugs and gangs in the District and Prince George’s County, faces at least 87 months in prison and fines of up to $16 million for the crimes he is charged with, prosecutors said.

U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Patty Hartman said there was no immediate court date set in Mr. Lowry’s case.

As a result of Mr. Lowry’s actions, prosecutors said the FBI task force had to abandon five major drug investigations that included cases in which prosecutors said officers broke up heroin-smuggling rings that transported drugs from New York and California to the District. Charges against 26 defendants have been dropped in two cases, and four defendants who were sentenced after pleading guilty in another drug trafficking case have asked that their convictions be vacated as a result of Mr. Lowry’s misconduct.

Additionally, prosecutors identified two 2014 investigations into drug smuggling and distribution rings in the District and Prince George’s County that they had to abandon. They estimate that officers had identified up to 30 targets in the two investigations that they were hoping to wiretap as the investigations progressed.

Mr. Bonsib said Mr. Lowry, a married father of one, is “devastated by the consequences of his conduct, particularly as it has affected the drug investigations that he, his fellow law enforcement officers, and prosecutors had spent so much time developing and pursuing.”

Mr. Bonsib said the night Mr. Lowry was discovered in his car was a “turning point” that caused his client to seek out drug treatment for his addiction. He added that his client has cooperated with police and prosecutors since that time.

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