WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge on Friday dismissed criminal indictments against 13 more defendants in major drug cases as authorities continued to investigate the growing scandal of an FBI agent accused of tampering with narcotics, firearms and other evidence seized in the cases.
The action by U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton came one day after prosecutors dropped charges against 10 other defendants — some already serving lengthy prison sentences — in related cases.
"This is pretty huge," said Carmen Hernandez, an attorney for one of the defendants. "There are people who have pled guilty being released from prison. The magnitude of the tampering or wrongdoing must be pretty large."
The agent being investigated is Matthew Lowry, 33, according to his attorney, Robert Bonsib.
"Agent Lowry is committed to assisting in the investigation of this matter and is making himself fully available to the authorities to answer any and all questions they have," Bonsib said.
FBI officials have not released the name of the agent or details of the alleged wrongdoing. The Washington Post first identified Lowry as the accused agent.
According to court papers, the FBI notified the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington on Oct. 1 about possible misconduct by an agent in the execution of a search warrant on Nov. 20, 2013, at a residence and in a vehicle belonging to one of the co-defendants in Deale, Maryland.
In one case, 10 defendants were charged with conspiring to distribute more than 2 pounds of heroin and more than 10 pounds of cocaine last year. In a separate case, eight defendants were indicted for allegedly conspiring to distribute more than 2 pounds of heroin in 2012.
In all, the government plans to dismiss at least 28 cases.
"We're doing a case-by-case review of matters involving the agent," said Bill Miller, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington.
Miller said the Justice Department's inspector general's office is conducting the investigation..
Walton dismissed the 13 cases Friday without prejudice, meaning the government could try to refile charges in the future. The defendants had pleaded guilty or were awaiting trial on various charges related to the drug cases, including one who had already begun serving a five-year prison sentence.
"Understand that you all dodged a bullet," Walton told the defendants as they sat — some smiling — in the jury box. "I hope we don't see you all in here again. Good luck to you."
Associated Press writer Pete Yost contributed to this report.
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