SAN FRANCISCO — A woman who worked as a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration chemist for 15 years was sentenced to two years in prison Tuesday for stealing cocaine from exhibits she was analyzing in drug cases.
Esther Allen, 56, of Corte Madera, had pleaded guilty to charges of embezzlement and distribution of 35 ounces of cocaine.
She said she was being blackmailed under threat of exposing her homosexuality. But federal prosecutors, who said one of the alleged blackmailers was cooperating with the government, contended that Allen's motive was financial gain.
"It is difficult to imagine a worse crime or a more fundamental betrayal that a DEA chemist could commit," said attorney Jan Nielsen Little of the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section in papers filed with U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson.
The maximum sentence for the charges is 25 years in prison.
Allen worked from 1971 until early this year in the DEA's Western Regional Laboratory in San Francisco, analyzing drug samples seized by federal agents in Western states.
Prosecutors said she stole cocaine by removing a small amount from each exhibit and replacing it with Manitol, a similar-looking white powder.