Former Drug Cop, Private Eye Indicted by Federal Grand Jury

The pair suspected in a larger East Bay law enforcement scandal were Aug. 8, according to news reports.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the date of this indictment.

A federal grand jury has indicted two former East Bay police officers on charges that include running a brothel and selling drugs.

Former Contra Costa County Narcotics Enforcement Cmdr. Norman Wielsch and ex-private investigator Christopher Butler stand accused of 17 felonies. The duo, who had been free on bail on previous charges in the case, were re-arrested by FBI agents and locked up without bail as the indictment was handed down Aug. 8 in a federal court in San Francisco.

The indictment accuses Wielsh and Butler, both 50, of working together to steal methamphetamine and marijuana from police evidence lockers and selling it back on the street.

The amount of drugs they're accused of stealing is enough to land them in federal prison for a decade, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, but several of the charges carry sentences of life in prison.

The two also pimped out sex workers at a Pleasant Hill massage parlor, the charges say. They are accused of demanding weekly payments from the women in exchange for protection, according to the indictment.

The men also reportedly conducted stings involving prostitutes, authorities say.

"Wielsch and Butler identified individuals they believed to be prostitutes through online advertisements and arranged meetings with them, typically in hotels," according to a statement from the Attorney General's office. "Wielsch and Butler then staged what purported to be legitimate sting operations, but instead of seizing evidence and citing the prostitutes, they unlawfully took the prostitutes’ money and property for themselves."

They did the same to get drugs —conducting what appeared to be legitimate stings but pocketing the narcotics for themselves, the indictment alleges.

“This indictment alleges a pattern of lawlessness that not only violated the trust of the people of Contra Costa County, but also brings dishonor to all the fine men and women in law enforcement who work hard, do the right thing, and risk their lives every day protecting our communities,” U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said in a statement.

Wielsh, a Concord resident, and Butler, who lives in Antioch, have been under investigation since January (Here's a in the case.) The Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office initiated the investigation but handed it over to federal authorities when it became too far-reaching to handle.

 The original case named two more defendants, former Danville police officer Stephen Tanabe and former San Ramon police officer Louis Lombardi.

  Information about whether federal prosecutors plan to charge Tanabe and Lombardi was not immediately available.   Jack Gillund, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office, said he could only comment on the indictment itself, which did not mention the two other defendants.

Butler is due in federal court again at 9:30 a.m. Thursday before Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins in San Francisco for a detention hearing. And Wielsh is scheduled to appear at 9:30 a.m. Aug 22 before Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler in Oakland.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

MagnusT August 16, 2011 at 04:24 AM
Julie Mendelsohn August 19, 2011 at 03:25 PM
I hope Martha is writing a Vanity Fair article about this mess. :)


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