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Head of County Narcotic Task Force and Concord Private Eye Jailed on Drug Charges

The investigation began in January after the state Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement received a report of allegations of misconduct by the drug task force chief.

The commander of a state Justice Department-led county drug task force and the owner of a Concord-based private investigations firm, nationally known for its "Mommy P.I.s," have been booked into county jail on suspicion of conspiring to sell drugs.  

Special agents from the Department of Justice, Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement,  arrested Norman “Norm” Wielsch, a 12-year veteran of the bureau, Wednesday in Benicia. Wielsch was arrested on 22 felony counts. The charges are related to the distribution of methamphetamine, marijuana and steroids, bureau spokeswoman Michelle Gregory said. 

The arrest is the result of an investigation that began in January after the bureau became aware of allegations of misconduct by Wielsch. Agents with the bureau initiated a comprehensive undercover operation that culminated in the arrest of Wielsch and Christopher Butler, 49, of Concord.  Butler, owner of Butler & Associates, is believed to be a friend and an associate of Wielsch but has no connection to the Justice Department or the narcotic enforcement team that Wielsch led, Gregory said.

The Contra Costa Times reported that the suspected offenses include embezzlement, second-degree burglary and conspiracy.

Wielsch and Butler were booked into the Contra Costa County Jail. Wielsch's bail was set at $660,000, Butler's at $840,000. 

The investigation is continuing and there is no indication that other police personnel were involved, Gregory said. The bureau is precluded by law from discussing what it terms an administrative investigation, and will not comment further on the criminal investigation.

Wielsch heads the Central Contra Costa Narcotics Enforcement Team (CCCNET), which is made up of police officers from local departments, including Walnut Creek, San Ramon, Danville, Pleasant Hill, Martinez, Clayton and the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office. The task force also includes representatives from the county Probation Department and the district attorney’s office.

The task force targets mid- to high-level drug dealers in central Contra Costa. Members are trained by the Justice Department, work undercover and are available to agencies 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

Butler's firm calls itself a full-service private investigations firm, but its claim to  fame, in addition to spots on The Today Show and the Dr. Phil Show, is its "P.I. Mom" team. According to the Butler and Associate's website, these are "highly-trained female investigators" who "possess unique skill-sets that make them an invaluable asset to the many complex cases and undercover stings" that the firm routinely performs.

Butler, a licensed investigator, started working for the original owner of the firm, former FBI Special Agent Charles Latting, two years after the firm opened in 1996, the website says. At that time, the firm operated under the name Corporate Intelligence Resources and specialized in undercover corporate work and investigative research for corporations and businesses throughout California.  

Butler became owner in 2002. "While continuing to provide in-depth investigations and covert personnel for workplace problems, Butler & Associates also provides outstanding surveillance, security and undercover sting services to a vast array of clientele," the website says. Some clients included private citizens who wanted to know whether their significant others were cheating on them, as this NBC News segment, which you can view here, shows. 

Martha Ross February 17, 2011 at 07:05 AM
Thanks for your note, Alex. I, too, have an ongoing interest in law and disorder in our community. I'm glad that you find Martinez Patch useful, and this article useful. As the writer of the article, well, it's not traditional for a writer to comment. But to refrain from doing so in this situation seemed not entirely forthcoming. So, that's why I commented. It will be interesting for anyone who cares about law and disorder in Contra Costa to see where these investigation leads.
carlos rose February 17, 2011 at 08:51 AM
I just became aware of this investigation today, so I am not in a position to make any credible comments on the parties involved. However, I worked for the Concord Police Dept. for 27 years, of which about two thirds of that time, I worked narcotics. All that I can say at this point, is that I am very disheartened, and disappointed in the alleged criminal activity of the accused. I wonder how many past investigations, and arrests conducted by the cccnet, will be called into question, and possibly overturned, due to this unfortunate situation. This also will invite more criticism about law enforcement by the general public. I've worked with many narcotics officers from many agencies, municipal, state, & federal. They were outstanding, capable, trustworthy, and "Good" men! I guess that we just have to let this investigation run its course, and let the chips fall. Carlos Rose Concord P.D. ( retired )
Martha Ross February 17, 2011 at 03:22 PM
According to the PI Moms blog, the Butler and Associates PI Moms were taking part in a reality show that was scheduled to begin airing in March 11. The PI Moms declined to say which network. From the Contra Costa Times: "As CNET commander, one of dozens of task forces run by the DOJ and staffed by officers from local police departments, Wielsch oversaw hundreds, if not thousands, of drug investigations in Contra Costa County. Wielsch's arrest could have ramifications on criminal cases litigated in Contra Costa, said Concord private attorney Dirk Manoukian, a former deputy district attorney who has both prosecuted and defended individuals in CNET cases."
Julie Mendelsohn February 17, 2011 at 03:25 PM
Didn't they also have an article written about them in the CoCo Times? For some reason, they are familiar to me, and I don't watch The Today Show or Dr. Phil.
Martha Ross February 17, 2011 at 04:04 PM
Julie, Yes, I believe the Times profiled the PI moms. Butler and Associates lists all its media coverage on its website, and the Times did a story on them, too. Given that I'm rather superficial in many ways, it is a bit gossipy to ponder what will happen to the PI Moms reality TV show.... At the same time, lots of drug cases that were handled by Wielsch's team, and were prosecuted in Contra Costa County could be in jeopardy if he was directly involved in the investigations, more than in just a supervisory role.
Kevin Keeler February 17, 2011 at 06:26 PM
I have seen my fair share of this over the years and it’s deeply distressing to me. As retired police officer, I know first hand what it’s like to have a personal relationship with another officer and later learn they were out doing the dirty deed. I don’t know which is worse; the betrayal felt from that relationship or loss of confidence one feels from the public. Unless the DOJ investigation covered it, the investigation may widen to officers in the agencies contributing to CCCNET. All the good and proper work done by the CCCNET team may be up for grabs. What’s more the reputation of those in or associated with that unit may now be, in some cases, unjustly called into question. I suppose the good news here is that state DOJ was able to address this in what sounds like relatively quick time.
Alex Cortlund February 17, 2011 at 06:39 PM
I certainly share your concerns and sadness related to this deplorable set of alleged circumstances. None of us know enough of the specifics of this particular case to pass judgement on the accused, but the issue of corruption of those entrusted with the authority and power to make and enforced the laws of our land is, and always will be, despicable and tragic. I also believe that those of us who pledge to uphold, then dishonor the law should be punished by it to the fullest extent.
Martha Ross February 17, 2011 at 06:43 PM
A reader just reminded me what had been reported in other news stories, that both Butler and Wielsch are former Antioch police officers. And, yes, Kevin I do wonder if the work of other officers on this task force will be called into question. That would be too bad if they were just doing their job. However, in the press release, the BNE spokeswoman said that it does not appear that other police personnel were involved.
Kevin Keeler February 17, 2011 at 06:49 PM
That's good to hear Martha. Good work on the reporting by the way!
Alex Cortlund February 17, 2011 at 07:24 PM
In my not so humble opinion, I find that traditional practices in journalism have become something much less than I was taught to expect as a university student in the 70s. Times have changed, but I think your personalized comment is a change for the best when done with honesty and integrity--I will certainly follow your by-lines. Thanks again.
t.bemis February 17, 2011 at 11:39 PM
two words Carlos for your last sentence.....Gary Norvell
t.bemis February 17, 2011 at 11:43 PM
If I was arrested by these two, while they were with Antioch PD, I would review the record and hire an attorney. Do you REALLY think they became dirty last month?
Joe A Citizen February 18, 2011 at 03:27 AM
So true, t.bemis. They didn't just become dirty overnight. And Mr. Keeler, the sad thing is that while not all cops are bad, they often look the other way when they see bad things happening by a rogue cop, making them just as bad. The police supporters in Antioch have their work cut out for them when stuff like this gets exposed. It's bad enough that the union didn't want to negotiate with the city so they had to be threatened with cuts. I also get perturbed when cops and/or their supporters say "its a tough job and I deserve the pay". No, you don't, and if it's so tough get out.
t.bemis February 18, 2011 at 04:18 AM
For Alex, Sorry to confuse you, and, no I did not get arrested or commit any crime. However, there are people that get arrested, and not charged everyday. You can be convicted of a crime and be innocent. I think you are well aware of the convictions overturned and cities and counties paying out large sums of money, after DNA cleared someone. So, in closing I am saying if a person was arrested by these two, even convicted on some of the evidence, it does not mean it was a rightous arrest or conviction....just maybe... it was little tainted.
terry February 18, 2011 at 06:19 AM
Isn't that ironic?..............The cops investigating the cops! Why is just about everyday you read the news there is another Civil Servant under Investigation? Living above the law................hang them all! Just my Opinion!
Julie Mendelsohn February 18, 2011 at 03:05 PM
What is it going to cost, financially, to review all their cases which may have been tainted? Who ends up paying for that? Us? If found guilty, can we compel the perps to pay?
Alex Cortlund February 18, 2011 at 06:42 PM
I am not an attorney or legal authority, but as I am a retired public employee who has dealt with the issues of victim restitution extensively over many years, I recognize the difference between legal rhetoric and reality. I have long been at odds with this dichotomy, and offer this point of view for those who are interested in diverse discourse--here is my version of "reality". After conviction the court can order restitution, but collection is another matter. The amount of any restitution is subject to many legal and situational considerations and collection is subject to the convict's financial assets and and future accessible wealth circumstances. From my experience with court ordered restitution, a vast amount is ordered, a pittance collected and distributed to victims. Criminals are usually not involved with gainful means of support (or the potential /motivation to become so), nor accessible wealth. Thus, the collectibility problem. Again, in my opinion, if convicted, the court has an authority to order restitution related to sentencing, but how much is dependent on several considerations. The collection, once more, is possible if the convicted "perpetrator" has legally accessible wealth or future potential to obtain it, and, most importantly, the victims (we the people in this case) are lucky. We all do what we do, I just wish we could do better.
Kevin Keeler February 18, 2011 at 11:05 PM
Mr. Terry, no one person has, or will have, the ability to be free from error or temptation. We all make mistakes, do things that are wrong, in the course of our lives, no matter who or what we are. This is the human condition. If we are just and wish to improve, we individually combat it to our last days. Thus, as a just society we recognize this and collectively institutionalize processes whereby we combat this condition for the greater good of all. No one is above the law. Cops do investigate cops by design. It’s done all the time and it’s not ironic. The police are not above the law and are justifiably subject to often greater scrutiny than most. They are held to a higher standard. And since cops are human, there will always be those who err and do wrong. This will never change no matter how much we try to out smart our error prone intellects with better screening processes. We will read stories like this next month, next year and so on. Their deeds are certainly more harmful to society. If guilty (they probably are) then they will most likely spend most of their remaining days in prison. Hanging them all? I have the same passions you do. But, those passions can be the gateway to the very error and temptation that caused this. A society devoid of compassion and greater understanding of the human condition can become a very unjust and dangerous place to live. The hangman’s noose comes in only one size – “one size fits all.” We need to be careful what we wish for.
Kevin Keeler February 18, 2011 at 11:12 PM
Mr. Citizen, I believe your frustrations are justified. Yes, it’s a very tough job. But, there is more at risk than life and limb for cops and the safety of our communities. I think we see that here with what has happened to these officers and the consequences of their actions. Therein is the real risk; that’s the tough part of the job and it’s just not a job for the cops. We all share in that risk. I do not see this tragedy so much as political. I see it in a more spiritual light. The sorrow I feel is for the loss to our collective sense of justice under the light of our human condition. In some sense, the risk here is not completely about trusting the cops and paying them appropriately; the risk is about not seeing the big picture. I’m not so sure your assumption about cops “often” turning a blind eye to improper or unlawful conduct is accurate in my experience. While we would kid ourselves to think it does not occur, cops do a great deal of weeding out of their own that goes unpublished and unnoticed. I would also suggest the consideration that there are many, many degrees of improper conduct and there is a difference between acts committed out of error, bad judgment, and those committed out of intention. There is also the possibility that a person can change or improve. In that haze, cops operate in a dangerous environment among friends with whom they must entrust their lives. Try to make sense of that! It’s really not that simple. (Continued Below)
Kevin Keeler February 18, 2011 at 11:12 PM
Lastly, you are correct. They most certainly did not turn dirty over night. I have lived through this with “colleagues” of my own. I can tell you from experience that the process of “turning dirty” is not as simple as flipping a switch where it’s either on or off. I can not speak with certainty here (perhaps no one will ever be able to) but I would speculate that some errant behaviors motivated by greed or anger, became habit with them. They may have even justified themselves is some way in the beginning, a kind of “noble cause” corruption. But along the way they continued to do their jobs correctly in probably many instances. In other instances, probably not. It is certainly right and just to review their past cases for patterns, inconsistencies, evidentiary issues and such. In that, there will be risk that some guilty are freed and some innocent are unjustly accused or held. And that is also sorrowful to me.
Alex Cortlund February 21, 2011 at 02:01 AM
I was saddened after reading this article on the SFGate website this morning (Contra Costa Scandal could Jeopardize Drug Cases.- Justin Berton, Chronicle Staff Writer -Friday, February 18, 2011) My response (in part) is: The jury is out as to the facts and substance of these criminal accusations, and the benefit of doubt should be extended for the time being. However, having said that, I do take vehement exception to the quote in this article that is attributed to Mr. Cardoza, as follows: "Cardoza said his client had received an outpouring of support from friends and police officers. "They say, 'Even if it's true, it has to be an aberration,' " Cardoza said." EVEN IF IT’S TRUE? I worked with Mr. Cardoza years ago when he was a prosecutor for the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office and I was an investigator for that county's Probation Department. In case he has forgotten his experience from that time and has become immune to truth and reason, I offer a contrary point of view to Mr. Cardoza’s and the accused's supporters. The alleged acts are not aberrations by any stretch of reason, law or imagination. They are despicable, calculated felony criminal acts committed by one who pledged to uphold the law and protect the community. The pretense to color it in any other way is reprehensible. I only hope that none of these proffered "supporters" are active peace officers who are under the same obligation to public service and law enforcement (if true-of coarse).
t.bemis February 21, 2011 at 03:13 AM
Well put, Mr. Cortlund. You have an excellent non-bias view of the legal system. That is a breath of fresh air in these times.
JWB February 21, 2011 at 03:26 AM
I would like to second t.bemis' comment. It is very refreshing to hear somebody with a inside view giving such a coherent and fair analysis of the facts as they are known so far.
t.bemis February 21, 2011 at 04:57 AM
So here we are, a few citizens writing and discussing two 49 year old men, who, at least one claiming they made a mistake failing their obligation to the public and today, two young boys who also made a mistake do not get to recover from their mistake. It does not seem fair......
Alex Cortlund February 23, 2011 at 04:00 PM
Amen.
Privacy Valued March 03, 2011 at 11:15 PM
I admit to a fair amount of under my breath laughter reading the stories of disbelief and shock written by other officers on this story. Give me a break. The reality of our justice system is if the prosecutor requires testimony to be presented in a certain way, be it blatantly untrue or seriously misrepresented fibs, that is what the court will hear from the officer. Cops lie on the stand on a daily basis. This is especially true in cases of reported officer misconduct or rights violations that are presented by the defense during any criminal prosecution. In my own experience, officers protect other officers, and that includes lying under oath. With that in mind, this guy must not have been very well liked in the circle of people whom investigated him.
Privacy Valued March 04, 2011 at 05:53 PM
Mr. Cortlund, I am sure that there are many different ways and situations in which officers feel compelled to lie. Whether it be dislike of the person or the covering of ones behind, etc. So a simple method of combating this problem will not be easy. However, in my own experience with this, a video and audio recording of all interactions with the various departments involved, would have shown all and would not have allowed any false testimony to be made. There are some programs I have read are being tested such as this, I believe San Jose Ca is one, where the recorders are worn by officers and are around the size of a typical bluetooth headset. If there was a general fixall for this problem, I believe this is it. I would typically refrain from going into detail about what happened to me, but, seeing as how you worked with various probation depts, perhaps you are the person that may be able to so something with my example. I would gladly email you details of what happened, but do not wish to do so on a public forum such as this. BTW, I do know and understand that there are some good cops out there, and judging from what you have written, you appear to be (or was) one of them. Unfortunately, it seems the good ones are becoming an exception rather than the norm. value_privacy@mailinator.com value_privacy@mailinator.com
Alex Cortlund March 05, 2011 at 05:06 AM
Some things, no matter how commonplace or prevalent they are seen or misconceived to be, shouldn't become laughing matters (under or over one's breath). To me, this is such a case. I have no idea what the basis of the sweeping cynical comments related to police corruption stem from, but I suspect that there is a large credibility gap therein. Its easy to sneer at "all" police officers and other criminal justice personnel, but criticism from an anonymous source has little practical value--this point of view is not productive in any meaningful way, and the subject of corruption in our criminal justice system is certainly not a laughing matter. If the author of these comments has substantial knowledge of what he claims, I'd like to hear more in the form of specifics and some ideas of what could or should be done to combat such evil doings.
t.bemis March 05, 2011 at 08:19 PM
I took the liberty of coping this comment from Claycord. This is comment I endorse and applaude--As was reported before by Only in CCC “why aren’t the Fed’s all over this”. San Francisco PD asked them to come in over the bogus search warrants today. CNET board thinks they can review and investigate their unit. Their total lack of stewardship speaks volumes on why Norm & Company got away with this for as long as they did. The Fed’s would look into claims by defendants that money, drugs, etc were taken or not reported, as well as a host of other issues. The DA should demand a Federal Investigation. If SFPD did it for illegal searches, I believe what Norm & Company did is much more insidious and a greater harm to the public. Does anyone out there “really” believe this all started 4 months ago? The kidnapping incident was in 2009. Drugs were taken then and not turned in. Wake up elected officials and top brass of police department’s who contributed officers and money to CNET. It took a Federal Judge to put the spotlight on a since retired Concord cop that he had a reckless disregard for the truth, and a major drug dealer walked out of court a free man. Prior to that, numerous complaints about that officer fell upon deaf ears. He was the Norman of his day
Martha Ross March 05, 2011 at 08:26 PM
T. Beamis: I was wondering the same thing myself when I heard about the FBI getting involved in investigating the SFPD for alleged illegal searches.

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