Prosecutors have dropped charges filed against a suspected madam at a local massage parlor because the lead witness — a former Contra Costa County drug task force commander — has been accused of multiple felonies in an unrelated criminal case.
This is the first case of charges being dropped because of accusations of drug theft and conspiracy against former state Department of Justice agent Norman Wielsch.
Wielsch and Concord private investigator Christopher Butler were arrested Feb. 16 and charged with more than two dozen counts of stealing methamphetamines, prescription pills, marijuana and steroids from police evidence rooms. (Click here for a timeline of this case.)
The Contra Costa District Attorney's office has said it is going to review all of the cases involving Wielsch and Butler — an estimated 40.
Also last week, the defense attorneys of two West Contra Costa County residents charged with growing and selling marijuana asked the D.A's office to recuse itself from the case. (The district attorney refused, saying Wielsch is not a witness in this case.)
Wielsch led the Central Contra Costa Narcotics Enforcement Team until a month ago. Authorities say he gave drugs seized as evidence to his longtime friend 49-year-old Butler, who would distribute it to other dealers.
The two have known each other for years – both once served as officers in the Antioch Police Department.
They remain free after posting bail and are due in court April 21 for a preliminary hearing.
The woman cleared of the misdemeanor pimping charge ran Excel Massage Therapy, 2580 San Ramon Valley Blvd., before her July 2009 arrest. One of her employees was charged with prostitution.
Robert Cummings, who represents the business owner, said the case resulted in the closure of the massage business and that his client is missing $120,000 that was taken from her bank account.
"We've been in negotiations trying to get that back," he said.
Cummings, who once worked as a prosecutor for the county District Attorney's Office, said Wielsch often went undercover as a john in massage parlor stings.
"That's a job normally reserved for the new guy ... I remember thinking, 'Why's the head of narcotics task force the guy on the table?' " Cummings said.
Cummings said he's dealing with three cases involving law enforcement stings on Bay Area massage parlors. Two of them involve Wielsch and in both cases, some cash went missing.
Wielsch wrote in his arrest report that he couldn't bring voice or video recorders to the San Ramon massage parlor sting because the business owners had transmitters to detect recording devices.
Butler and Wielsch also face allegations that they ran a "dirty DUI" scheme. Prosecutors say Butler hired attractive women to flirt and drink with men going through divorce proceedings and then called local police officers to get them arrested on drunken-driving charges.