PLEASANT HILL (CBS 5) — A former Contra Costa County drug task force commander and one of his co-defendants accused of selling drugs and running a brothel in Pleasant Hill are now facing new allegations that they used police power to eliminate competing brothels, CBS 5 has learned.
Former Central Contra Costa County Narcotic Task Force Cmdr. Norman Wielsch and Christopher Butler, a former Antioch police officer and private investigator, 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. They have both pleaded not guilty to the drug charges.
Two other defendants, former Contra Costa County sheriff’s deputy Stephen Tanabe, 47, and San Ramon police Officer Louis Lombardi, 38, have also been charged in the drug case.
No charges related to prostitution have yet been filed, but sources had told CBS 5 on Wednesday that a state Department of Justice investigation was underway into accusations that the men operated a massage business in a Pleasant Hill office park that was purely a front for prostituion.
On Thursday, sources said investigators were also checking into allegations that Wielsch and his vice task force were also shutting down other area brothels to eliminate the competition.
Pleasant Hill Police Chief Pete Dunbar also acknowleged that his police department referred neighors who complained about prostitution in the business park to Wielsch’s task force to investigate.
It was department protocol, but Dunbar now feels betrayed since those complaints were handled – and dismissed – by same law enforcement officer now accused of operating the prostitution ring.
“This is the kind of thing we don’t want in the community. To have law enforcement ignoring or taking advantage of the public is a shameful thing,” the chief said.
Sources told CBS 5 that within the past few weeks Butler gave law enforcement officials a 34-page document claiming that he and Wielsch were involved in running the alleged brothel, but Wielsch’s attorney Michael Cardoza maintains the document’s claims are fiction.
“Norm Wielsch was not involved with running a brothel,” Cardoza said. “Chris Butler has made up this fairy tale.”
He said he believed Butler was running the brothel by himself and dragged Wielsch’s name into it to persuade prosecutors to offer him a reduced prison sentence in exchange for turning in dirty cops.
“Butler leased the property. He bought the furniture from IKEA. He brought it to the premises and put it together. He hired the girls. He collected the money,” Cardoza said.
“He says he was forced to do it” because he was afraid of Wielsch, Cardoza said. “But if you know Butler, nobody forces him to do anything. He’s a tough guy.”
Cardoza added that when Wielsch was arrested, he confessed to the drug-related charges and cooperated with police without asking for a lawyer, but he never mentioned anything about prostitution “because it isn’t true.”
Butler may have named other police officers in the document he gave to investigators but not in connection with the brothel, Cardoza said.
Butler’s attorney William Gagen could not be reached Thursday for comment.
Contra Costa County Prosecutor Harold Jewett declined to comment because of the ongoing investigation into the matter.
“We’re going to follow this investigation wherever it leads,” he said.
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