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Attorney Hints At Possible Widening Of CoCo Law Enforcement Scandal

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Norman Wielsch, Contra Costa Narcotics Enforcement Team CNET commander

Norman Wielsch, former Commander of the Central Contra Costa Narcotics Enforcement Team (CBS)

SAN RAMON (CBS SF) – Last week’s arrest of a San Ramon police officer may not be the last in connection with the Contra Costa County drug and DUI scandal – one that has already snared a number of law enforcement officials from a variety of agencies.

In fact, one of the defense attorneys involved in the case believes it’s possible that more officers could face charges related to the alleged stolen drug evidence and illegal DUI arrests.

It’s a case that, by all accounts, has stunned the East Bay law enforcement community.

KCBS’ Bob Melrose Reports:

“Although, we defense attorneys have been saying for years just because a person’s a police officer, that doesn’t mean that you can trust them simply because of that,” pointed out Michael Cardoza, who has been retained by Norman Wielsch, the county narcotics team – or CNET- commander charged in the scandal.

“The District Attorney has to keep on digging as they well should,” Cardoza continued, “to see if there are other officers out there that are involved. It’s gotten to the point where you can hardly tell the good guys from the bad.”

Last week, San Ramon police officer Louis Lombardi, 38, was charged with several felonies, including conspiracy to sell drugs, possession of an assault rifle, possession of an SKS rifle, embezzlement and receiving stolen firearms.

The charges against Lombardi were added to what is now a 38-count criminal complaint against Wielsch, former Contra Costa County sheriff’s deputy Stephen Tanabe, and former police officer and private investigator Christopher Butler.

Wielsch and Butler, both 49, have been charged with conspiracy; selling methamphetamine, marijuana and steroids; and possessing methamphetamine, marijuana and steroids for sale.

Wielsch allegedly stole the drugs from law enforcement evidence lockers and Butler allegedly arranged to have them sold, according to court documents.

Tanabe, 47, was allegedly involved in steroid sales, according to court records.

According to the newest charges, Lombardi allegedly met with Wielsch and Butler at a barbecue restaurant in Pleasant Hill in May 2009 and discussed using a confidential informant from CNET to sell marijuana.

In the spring of 2010, Lombardi allegedly sold Ecstasy pills to the confidential informant in Arizona, and in October 2010, he allegedly sold half a pound of marijuana to the same confidential informant, according to court documents.

Tanabe and Butler have also been charged in connection with a so-called “dirty DUI” scheme, in which Butler allegedly set up men to be arrested for drunken driving and then tipped off Tanabe, who arrested them.

Wielsch, Butler and Tanabe have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

As part of the fallout from the case, the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office has dismissed 15 pending criminal cases and declined to file charges on five more cases involving the dirty DUI arrests, according to District Attorney Mark Peterson.

During Lombardi’s arraignment Friday, Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Nancy Davis Stark granted the prosecutor’s request to raise his bail from $270,000 to $500,000, and he remained in custody that afternoon.

He is scheduled to return to court May 13 to enter a plea and to have a bail hearing.

“An awful lot of these officers comes with great reputations and yet you find things like this, you know, that they were engaged in crimes,” said Cardoza. “And it’s certainly shocking to both the district attorney community and even to the defense community.”

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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