(CBS News) Massachusetts authorities are warning of a possible crime wave because of a scandal in a state crime lab.
Hundreds of convictions have been thrown out because the evidence was probably tainted.
Already, at least eight defendants who were released have been re-arrested on new charges.
And there's a lone chemist who allegedly triggered it all.
Annie Dookhan, a former Massachusetts crime lab chemist, allegedly tampered with evidence -- and the integrity of the state's entire criminal justice system.
"The implication, at least based upon our investigation, is that she faked the results," Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said.
Over nine years, Dookhan tested more than 60,000 drug samples and gave expert testimony in court. But investigators say test results used as evidence in 34,000 drug cases she worked on is now suspect, and 1,100 convicted criminals may have to go free.
Bernard Grossberg, a criminal defense attorney, said, "It's incalculable for the harm that has been done to the integrity of the criminal justice system. While we don't like some of these guys getting released, that's what the law requires."
Dookhan lied about having a master's degree in chemistry, lied in court as an expert witness, and allegedly lied in the lab, mishandling evidence and forging signatures.
Referring to the term "rogue chemist" -- how Dookhan has been described -- Coakley said, "She developed a practice of what we call 'dry labbing,' of substituting drugs she knew would test positive for the drugs she was looking for."
Co-workers nicknamed her "superwoman," because her caseload was three times higher than average. But state police took over the lab last August, and discovered widespread problems.
Dookhan told investigators she acted alone: "I messed up. I messed up bad," she said. "It's my fault."
No one can explain why she did it, but 160 convicted criminals have already been freed, and local police are worried about a crime wave if hundreds more have to be released.
Coakley, said, "All of our local police chiefs can and should be worried about that, but we're determined to get it right in Massachusetts. We have to make sure the public has a sense the system works."
Dookhan could be indicted for obstruction of justice in the next week. If convicted, she faces 20 years in prison.
For Mark Strassmann's full report, watch the video in the player above.
The issue with Dookhan was leadership, CBS News senior correspondent John Miller, a former deputy police commissioner in New York and Los Angeles said on "CBS This Morning." He said, "I think what they found in this case is the ultimate no-brainer, which when you see a pattern and practice like that go out like that for a long time like that which is who was checking on the anomalies like that?"
As for a potential crime wave, Miller said, "You've got a thousand people who are going to be released from the state of Massachusetts. About 600 will come right back to Boston. One might argue if they were fake, what's the problem? The problem is they most of them had rap sheets longer than both of our arms put together. This probably wasn't their first the rodeo. The Boston (Police Department) has put together a clever kind of strategy to welcome them home."
For Miller's full analysis on "CTM," watch the video in the player below.
"When you're going to get any bad guys coming in. Ed Davis, who's the police commissioner up there, who's about 6'6" and three-and-a-half feet wide. ... I don't know why they need cops. He could walk around the neighborhood and criminals would run. He sat down and said, 'We're going to strategize this.' He said, 'Now let's go visit all of these guys in jail. They went and visited all 600 of them and said, got two key messages to them: They said, 'Welcome back to society. Welcome back home. We have a list of services, jobs, vocational, housing, and we want you to avail yourself.' Plan B is, 'If you go back to the life of dealing drugs or shooting up the neighborhood, we're going to be putting you right back here and we're going to be watching you.' So they've got massive amounts of overtime for their narcotics and gangs team and they've really prepared for this so they don't feel a bump in crime. That's what they're hoping."