By Joe Vazquez, CBS 5

MARTINEZ (CBS 5) — As narcotics task force commander Norm Wielsch and private investigator Chris Butler made their first formal appearances before a judge Friday afternoon, the prosecutor made a stunning revelation in the packed courtroom — that Wielsch admitted to investigators he stole drugs from law enforcement evidence lockers and re-sold them with Butler’s help.

Each man faces more than 20 felony charges for possessing and selling marijuana, methamphetamine and steroids. Contra Costa County Judge Nancy Davis reduced Wielsch’s bail from $1 million down to $400,000. Butler’s attorney said he was still working on reducing his client’s bail, which is set at $900,000.

Why did the men allegedly do it? Wielsch’s attorney, Michael Cardoza, said there were financial reasons — including the fact that Wielsch has a daughter who needs a bone marrow transplant.

“As human beings we make mistakes,” Cardoza said. “We have to face them and take responsibility for them.”

According to Cardoza, Wielsch has been “extremely remorseful” and did confess to many of the crimes he has been charged with. He has been cooperating with investigators since his arrest, Cardoza added.

“He accepted responsibility for these charges,” Cardoza said, indicating that Wielsch’s cooperation “speaks to his character and to how he’s going to meet these charges.”


William Gagen, who is representing Butler, however, said that Wielsch’s alleged cooperation with investigators seemed to him to be self-serving and to unfairly place more of the blame on Butler.

“Clearly there’s been an abuse of trust by a high-ranking police officer,” Gagen said.

He acknowledged that Butler and Wielsch knew each other and became friends about 25 years ago while they were officers in the Antioch Police Department. But he said that Wielsch was the one who had access to the drugs, not Butler.


Gagen said he was still reviewing the evidence in the case, and did not yet know the extent of Butler’s involvement in the alleged scheme.

Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney Jun Fernandez characterized Wielsch and Butler’s alleged activity as “a sophisticated scheme” and said Wielsch used his access as a law enforcement officer to steal drugs from the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office evidence locker and from the Central Contra Costa County Narcotic Enforcement Team (CNET) and then gave them to Butler to sell back out onto the streets.

“This was certainly not a sophisticated scheme. It was very simple,” Cardoza maintained, claiming it only involved between $5,000 and $10,000.

The charges stem from an undercover investigation that began in November and allege illegal drug activity from Nov. 17 through Wednesday when the two men, both 49, were arrested in Benicia.

Neither defendant entered a plea Friday and both were scheduled to return to Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez on March 2.

Butler left law enforcement in the late 1990s and currently has his own private investigations business, while Wielsch has been working with the state Department of Justice for the past 12 years and was the supervisor for CNET.

The team is one of dozens of drug enforcement task forces throughout the state that are run through the justice department.

Officials told CBS 5 on Friday that all of CNET’s activities had been suspended for the time being because of the charges brought against Wielsch.

“This is very disappointing, not just for CNET, but for all of law enforcement,” said Scott Holder, San Ramon police chief and chairman of CNET’s executive committee. “For now, CNET’s operations have ceased. We will be evaluating next week what will happen next.”

There have been questions about how this case would impact the credibility of CNET and of how many CNET cases it could jeopardize.

Cardoza, however, claimed that the only cases that would be affected would be those from which Wielsch allegedly stole the drugs.

This case “does not affect the integrity of the whole unit,” Cardoza contended. “This is an individual person.”

While investigators believe the alleged scheme was limited to a four-month period and did not involve any other police officers, District Attorney Mark Peterson said his office would be working with the state Department of Justice to review all the cases brought in by CNET to see if they have been compromised.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Bay City News contributed to this report.)

Comments (26)
  1. john smith says:

    Should of used better judgement.

  2. Chris Pepper says:

    I just want to point out, as a parent of a child with Lymphoma, that he had insurance with his job as a cop, using his daughter’s illness is really SICK. Yes, he’s going through a lot, but claiming he was going to have to pay for the bone marrow transplant is a complete lie I strongly suspect.

    1. Harry says:

      I would have to agree with you, he never should have dragged his daughter and her ailment into this but I guess he was entering a pity plea.

    2. Tony Escalade says:

      Not justfying what he did in anyway, but before you start pointing fingers do your homework before you start speaking… You don’t know his situation at all.

      1. Chris Pepper says:

        have you had a child with stage 3 blood cancer? If not please don’t ask me to do my homework on coverage options for children. I’ve walked the walk, I bet you haven’t.

      2. tony soprano says:

        who cares what his situation is,do we take into account a gang member selling drugs,no

    3. Tim Foley says:

      I was going to post the same point. I’m sure that he has excellent medical insurance coverage. To use his daughter’s illness for sympathy is a complete farce and only lowers his morals. Talk about desperation!

      1. Chris Pepper says:

        Tim, yeah I suspect so, and even if not, any child diagnosed with cancer in the state of California who doesn’t have coverage gets FULL coverage from the county, including marrow transplant. I know this for a fact because of my daughter’s diagnosis. I was denied coverage from the county because I had my own insurance but I had to prove that so my child wouldnt’ fall through the cracks.

        this was a purely sympathy plea, and he and his lawyer should be ashamed to drag his daughter into this. She is likely going to the hospital 4 days a week and going through some very tough times, her drug dealing dad isn’t helping.

  3. Justice4all says:

    Considering the amount of trust appointed to law enforcement to protect and serve the citizens of this country, this guy deserves to have the book thrown at him. This is unnacceptable and makes you think, who is really the bad guys????

  4. John L. says:

    We already have laws that increase penalties for crimes *against* law enforcement officers. Now we need to increase the penalties for law enforcement officers who break laws. They should get double-time because they knew better and abused society’s trust.

  5. Just sayin says:

    This does NOT help combat the saying that ALL cops are crooked, does it?

  6. Tom Kehoe says:

    Slap on the wrist. Guess who else got a cut?

  7. Tom Kehoe says:

    Where do you get this foolish notion “to protect and serve”?

  8. tn says:

    The only thing that could top this story is if attorney Tony Serra defends this (crooked) cop…

  9. Treyman says:

    Wielsch’s cooperation “speaks to his character and to how he’s going to meet these charges.”

    No him stealing drugs and reselling them speak to his character.

  10. E says:

    It;s nice to see how cops are so honest

  11. William Mosely says:

    I will not comment on this case, only to say were that my daughter I would have no choice but to do everything in my power to save her life. Enough said. SwampFox-82nd

    1. Chris Pepper says:

      umm hmm so $10,000 would get his daughter one night in the hospital in a cancer center. My bet is he gives a rats ass about his daughter or he wouldn’t be out stealing and dealing drugs, he’d be sitting next to her while she gets her Aspariginase, Doxirubicin, cytoxin, and methotrexate and 6MP, he wouldnt be out dealing coke and weed. Educate yourself.

  12. j levine says:

    Tony Serra would NEVER represent a snitch. I am glad Norman rolled on Butler personally. I just hope the cops investigate this situation to the very beginning of their careers. These two are dirty as they come. Bring in the Fed’s for a top/down of CNET.

    1. tony soprano says:

      thats a good start,then next stop the freakin IRS close it down audit it and hold responsible those that have no clue where the tax payers money has gone

  13. The man who knows the truth says:

    These cops have a long history with extensive connections to just about every law enforcement agency in Contra Costa County. The main reason CNET was created was to overcome multi-jurisdictional challenges LE faces chasing drug deals. These guys have been in the “resale business” for over 20 years. There are hundreds of stories about drugs being stolen during busts dating back to the 80’s.

    If you think the CNET leadership suddenly had a lapse in judgement you are wrong and the DA suggesting that Norman Weilsch started his crime spree in November 2010 only to end on January 2011 you are smokin’ drugs yourself.

    Weilsch should have never been given bail as he will looking to eliminate suspects, victims and anyone who might come forward.

    There is a long history here and the Bay Area Media organizations have gone to sleep, they are lame, weak and timid. There is much bigger story inside this story

    The DA knows the truth but faces challenges to hundreds of past cases. This is far worse than the SFPD case where the Evidence technician snorted evidence.

    IF Weilsch was involved in hundreds of cases then we are talking about millions in drug seizures over the last 15 years.

    1. R.S. says:

      I agree with u 100% VERY! YERY! well said, exactly what i was thinking, thank u for posting ur comment!.