Staff and wire reports
More signs are emerging that two longtime friends, former Antioch police officers and alleged partners in a scandal that is rocking the Contra Costa County law enforcement community are turning on each other to gain leverage in their pending court cases.
Christopher Butler, best known for his Concord private investigations firm that employed attractive women known as "P.I" Moms, has alleged that his friend, a former Contra Costa County drug task force commander, was not only helping him run a brothel but was robbing prostitutes with rival operations, according to a report Saturday in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Norman Wielsch, the former task force commander and an ex-state Department of Justice agent, said " prostitutes and drug dealers deserved to have their money stolen." This is according to allegations Butler made in a 34-page narrative he provided to investigators and that was obtained by the Chronicle.
Butler and Wielsch, who both served on the Antioch police force, are charged in a scandal that also involves police officers in Danville and San Ramon. Wielsch, 50, and Butler, 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 charges.
Two other defendants, former Danville Police officer Stephen Tanabe, 47, of Alamo and San Ramon police Officer Louis Lombardi, 38, have also been charged in the case, which also involved at least half a dozen arrests of East Bay men involved in contentious divorce cases. Butler supposedly hired women to get the men drunk at bars in towns including Danville, Clayton and Concord then called police to have them arrested on drunken driving charges to tarnish their reputations. Tanabe, who also served on the Antioch force from 1995 to 1997, saying he did nothing criminal and claiming he put too much trust in his friend, Butler.
Through his attorney, Wielsch denies involvement in prostitution. Walnut Creek attorney Michael Cardoza said the document Butler gave law enforcement was "fiction."
The document says that Wielsch in 2009 worked out an arrangement with a 36-year-old Oakland woman whom he had previously arrested in Walnut Creek for prostitution. She would help him and Butler set up a massage parlor on Gregory Lane in Pleasant Hill, according to the Chronicle.
Butler said Wielsch had him make weekly pickups of $250 to $500 from each woman who worked at the massage parlor called The Divine Skin. Butler said San Ramon police Officer Lombardi was also aware of the brothel operation, according to the Chronicle.
Butler further alleged that Wielsch had his multi-agency drug task force make raids on competing massage parlors, primarily run by Asian women. Wielsch would take cash, as well as condoms and cell phones in order to "make a serious dent" in the prostitutes' operations, Butler said in his narrative, according to the Chronicle.
"Norm Wielsch was not involved with running a brothel," Cardoza said. "Chris Butler has made up this fairy tale."
He said he believes Butler was running an alleged 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 Danville attorney, William Gagen, told the San Francisco Chronicle that Wielsch had Butler lease the spot on Gregory Lane and employ the Oakland woman to manage the brothel.
The business, now closed, was located in a small strip mall in the middle of a residential area and up the street from several large churches. The strip mall also houses a Thai restaurant, a florist and a 7-Eleven store.
According to court records, Wielsch arrested the woman in Walnut Creek in July 2009 on suspicion of prostition when he headed the task force. With Wielsch's intervention, the Chronicle said, the woman's charge was reduced to a misdmeanor disturbing the peace.
After neighboring tenants complained about scantily clad women entering the massage shop after normal business hours, Wielsch sent an agent to investigate but only after he provided a photograph of the agent to the female manager to make sure the agent received a legitimate massage, the Chronicle reported.
Contra Costa County Prosecutor Harold Jewett said today that he couldn't confirm any of the allegations related to prostitution. He explained that he couldn't comment on an ongoing investigation.
"We're going to follow this investigation wherever it leads," he said. No charges related to prostitution have been filed, he said. Pleasant Hill police also could not be reached for comment.
Bay City News contributed to this report.