Contra Costa Sheriff’s Deputy Resigns Amid Drug Probe
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY (CBS/AP) – An officer facing drug charges in the investigation of a Contra Costa County drug task force has resigned from the County Sheriff’s office.
Authorities said that Stephen Tanabe, a deputy sheriff who had been put on administrative leave, resigned on Thursday.
Stephen Tanabe, a 47-year-old Alamo resident, was arrested March 4 on suspicion of possessing and transferring an illegal assault rifle and conspiracy to possess and sell controlled substances.
Tanabe had been with the sheriff’s office for about four years and had been assigned to the patrol division in Danville, which contracts with the sheriff’s office for its police services.
His arrest came as part of an investigation by the sheriff’s office, the California Department of Justice and the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office into allegations that Norman Wielsch, the then-commander of the state-run Central Contra Costa County Narcotic Enforcement Team, or CNET, had been stealing drugs from law enforcement evidence lockers.
Wielsch allegedly worked with Christopher Butler, a Concord-based private investigator, to sell them back out onto the streets, officials said.
Wielsch and Butler, both 49, were arrested Feb. 16. They have pleaded not guilty to 28 felony charges alleging that they conspired together to possess and sell marijuana, methamphetamine and steroids.
According to an affidavit for a search warrant for Tanabe’s residence, Tanabe appears to have been connected to the scandal through Butler, who allegedly worked with him to conduct so-called “dirty DUI” stops on clients’ husbands to damage their reputations for upcoming legal battles.
On several occasions, Butler allegedly hired people to lure his targets to a local bar in Danville and get them drunk. He would then allegedly contact Tanabe, give him a description of the target and the target’s vehicle and have Tanabe arrest him for drunken driving.
In one case, the target was cheating on his wife and Butler was allegedly looking to “’dirty him up’ for a future court case,” according to the affidavit.
In another case, investigators found that the target’s wife had paid Butler $5,000 to investigate her husband’s activities and Tanabe allegedly told another deputy that the DUI arrest was “a set up”.
Tanabe, who is free on $260,000 bail, has not yet been charged with any crime by the district attorney’s office.
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