How to Fake a DNA Test

How to Fake a DNA Test

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted April 13, 2008 in DNA and the Law

Most people who buy DNA test want to know the truth but there are others who want to evade it.

blood drawIn 1992, Dr. John Schneeberger implanted a plastic tube in his arm filled with someone else’s blood. He had been charged with two counts of sexual assault in Saskatchewan, Canada. When ordered to provide a blood sample, Schneeberger drew the blood himself from the plastic tube instead of his vein. He was eventually deported and sent back to South Africa.

In March 2007, four Massachusetts men were charged with attempting to tamper with DNA testing. They apparently tried to trade ID bracelets when having their blood drawn but was caught when their fingerprints didn’t match the samples. I’m not sure what became of them but they faced a sentence of up to five years in jail.

And in a paper published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, Dr. Jose Antonio Lorente Acosta at the Laboratory of Genetic Identification of the University of Granada found evidence of fraud in a paternity test case. The suspect had applied another person’s saliva to the inside of his mouth prior to having DNA samples taken with a cotton swab.

And what about accurate DNA analyses that are reported INaccurately? I’m sure there are unscrupulous DNA testing services worldwide that will give people any results they want for whatever purposes they need it for, e.g., immigration. Not to mention people like Simon Mullane, a British businessman who made-up paternity test results rather than actually doing the testing. Makes you think twice about the accuracy and validity of DNA testing, doesn’t it?



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Comment by Guy Fogel Subscribed to comments via email

What about Brian Meehan of DNA Security studying the DNA in the Duke Lacrosse team “rape” case, finding 5 separate individuals’ DNA in the panties but none matching any of the Duke Lacrosse players and not disclosing their findings. That fact eventually broke the case, destroyed the DNA Security company, and disbarred the District Attorney.

Great example, Guy. Human error, deliberate or accidental, plays a role even when it’s something that should be definitive like DNA tests.

Comment by Guy Fogel Subscribed to comments via email

I realized the Meehan example is not like a person falsifying his own DNA. My point is not to have 100% certainty in DNA results reported by humans, because human error deliberate or accidental can give false information.

Absolutely, Guy. Totally agree with you. Thanks for the comments!

Comment by StevenMurphy MD Subscribed to comments via email

Sounds more and more like Gattaca every day.

Steve, Only without the beautiful people….

Comment by Clinton Torres

Security specialist Bruce Schneier recently wrote about the stolen fingerprints of a German Minister, where he referred back to a Biometrics article from 10 years ago:

The last paragraph is a perfect summary. Basically, biometrics are not secrets, and are only useful when there is a trusted path from reader to the verifier.

In all except the Granada saliva case, there is a clear breakdown of the trust path between the reader and the verifier.

Clinton, I used to think that chain-of-custody DNA testing was as good as it can get but clearly, humans can be duped at any step along the way. Thanks for the link. I remember reading about the stolen fingerprints. Nuts.

The Chaos Computer Club (CCC), has included a piece of thin rubber film that contains the fingerprint of the German Minister of Interior, Wolfgang Schäuble, in their recent issue of Datenschleuder.

Comment by StevenMurphy MD Subscribed to comments via email

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Comment by Alan Bajandas

Thanks, Alan! Nice to see you here. :)

Comment by Scooter Jones Subscribed to comments via email

If someone wants to fake a DNA test would it work if he put someone elses saliva, sperm or blood in his mouth prior to being tested.?

Comment by Ryan Q Subscribed to comments via email

Guy made a great point! “fake” DNA results are showing up in court rooms all over the country in forensic cases involving crimes.

State crime labs test an evidence sample an obtain a partial profile – perhaps 6 genetic markers. They compare that to the 16 marker reference sample of the suspect and a perfect match results. The prosecution then convinces the jury that he’s guilty based on DNA evidence, when really, 50% of Caucasian males mights share those same 6 markers.


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