Suspect ex-cop in drug thefts also sought to sell explosives

Mar 1 2011 - 10:49am

MARTINEZ, Calif. -- A Concord, Calif., private investigator tried to find a buyer for two bricks of a military-grade explosive in the days before he and a drug task force leader were charged with selling and conspiring to sell large quantities of drugs, according to a search warrant affidavit.

Norman Wielsch, the head of the state-run Central Contra Costa Narcotics Enforcement Team and private investigator Christopher Butler are expected to enter a plea Wednesday to 28 felony charges that allege the longtime friends sold marijuana, methamphetamine and steroids that had been seized by the narcotics team.

Butler allegedly told a confidential informant in the case that Wielsch, who he called "uncle" in many conversations secretly recorded by state Department of Justice agents, was looking to make extra money before his retirement. The informant said Butler was being audited by the IRS.

The pair was selling drugs, an informant told the Department of Justice, which oversees the now-suspended task force, on Jan. 21, three days after informant saw Wielsch speak to the media about a pipe bomb investigation at a storage locker, the affidavit says.

The state DOJ had begun audio and video surveillance on Feb. 2 when the informant gave Butler money for marijuana and steroids that Butler had obtained from Wielsch. Butler then asked if the informant could find a buyer for two bricks of the explosive C-4. The informant said that was unlikely.

"Butler tells the (informant) that if it can't be sold, he would 'give it to uncle (Wielsch)' so that he could 'say he found it in a search warrant,"' an investigator wrote.

That much C-4 could cause serious structural damage to a home but would not be enough to destroy a big officie building, said Sgt. Jay Hill of the Walnut Creek Police Department bomb squad.

It appears from the affidavit that Wielsch and Butler conspired to sell drugs that either were about to be destroyed or had been newly seized.

The pair allegedly discussed in wire-trapped phone calls when other narcotics task force members would be out of the office for training, the most opportune times to steal drugs.

Wielsch and Butler also were recorded planning to sell a pound of crystal methamphetamine for $10,000 -- the most lucrative sale detailed in the affidavit -- before the drug was scheduled for disposal.

"What if we just went in there and swapped one out with flour, no one is going to test it, and then we can just take the flour to the dump," an agent wrote that Butler told Wielsch.

"Well, the problem is, that it's at the Sheriff's department ... that means I have to go get it, and it looks pretty weird if I got get just that one," Wielsch reportedly responded.

"(Special Agent Supervisor) Wielsch continues by explaining that if he goes on Tuesday with a court order, he can take all of it as if he were going to destroy it, and adds 'no one is going to take a second look,"' an investigator wrote.

Butler's attorney, Bill Gagen, declined to comment on the affidavit. Gagen is expected to argue Wednesday that a judge should lower Butler's bail. Butler, a 49-year-old Concord man, has been held in lieu of $900,000 bail since he and Wielsch were arrested Feb. 16. Wielsch, a 49-year-old Antioch, Calif., resident, posted $400,000 bail on Feb. 18.

"I am not willing at this point to make any statements about discovery, which may take weeks," Gagen said. "There's a lot being looked at way beyond Chris Butler."

Wielsch's attorney, Michael Cardoza, said Monday that he hopes that he can reach an agreement with prosecutors to avoid a trial for Wielsch.

"It doesn't make sense to try this with a jury. The evidence we would have to face is daunting, and on the other side, the entire (narcotics) task force will be splayed on the news," Cardoza said. "If we can resolve this, it would serve us all much better."

Cardoza said his client was strained by the physical tolls of a 20-year career in law enforcement and the rising cost of caring for his ailing daughter.

"That's not by way of an excuse, but an explanation," Cardoza said. "It's not like he was a bad guy all these years. This thing just started a couple of months ago and the amount of money involved was peanuts. At the logical and rational level, this makes no sense."

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(c) 2011, Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.).

Visit the Contra Costa Times on the Web at http://www.contracostatimes.com.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

 

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