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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Deputy Sheriff Arrested in Ongoing Drug Probe

Danville deputy arrested in ongoing drug probe
The San Francisco Chronicle by Justin Berton - March 5, 2011

Danville, CA -- A Contra Costa County sheriff's deputy has been arrested in connection with the investigation of a state narcotics agent who allegedly stole drugs from evidence lockers, authorities said Saturday. Stephen Tanabe, 47, an Alamo resident, was booked Friday night into Contra Costa County Jail on suspicion of possession and transfer of an assault rifle and conspiracy to possess and sell controlled substances. He was taken into custody by agents representing the state Department of Justice and the district attorney's office. Authorities did not elaborate on the details of the alleged offenses, but a statement from the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department said Tanabe's arrest was the "result of the ongoing investigation into the state Department of Justice Central Contra Costa Narcotics Enforcement Team (CNET)." "As soon as we learned of Deputy Tanabe's alleged involvement in the CNET case, we immediately asked the Department of Justice and the district attorney to take over the investigation," Sheriff David Livingston said in the statement. A law enforcement source close to the investigation, who asked not to be named, said agents are looking into whether Tanabe was hired by a private investigator in connection with a scheme to arrest men for drunken driving in an effort to blemish their records in hotly contested divorce cases. The source said officers in as many as four Bay Area departments are now being scrutinized for their ties to the investigator, Christopher Butler, 49, to see if they also made arrests at his orders.

Butler is a central figure in the CNET investigation. He was arrested Feb. 16 with his longtime friend, Norman Wielsch. Both were charged with 28 felony counts connected to the theft, possession and sale of methamphetamines, marijuana, steroids and prescription pills. Authorities said Wielsch, the former commander of the Contra Costa County Narcotics Enforcement Team, stole the drugs from evidence lockers and passed them along to Butler, who found buyers through employees at his investigations firm. Butler was released from jail Friday after making bail. Wielsch also is out on bail. All three men - Wielsch, Butler and Tanabe - are former Antioch police officers who worked in the department in the late 1990s. A spokesperson for the Contra Costa County district attorney's office did not return calls seeking comment after Tanabe's arrest. The arrest is the third connected to the Department of Justice's investigation into the multiagency narcotics task force known as CNET. Two former employees of Butler, who asked not to be named because of fear of reprisals, said he was often hired by women who wanted to create a criminal record on their ex-husbands. If the man was involved in a contentious divorce and custody battle, a DUI conviction could hurt his chances for winning custody. Butler paid the officers in cash for an arrest, the employees said. At Wednesday's arraignment for Wielsch and Butler, when they pleaded not guilty, Deputy District Attorney Jun Fernandez described the ruse he said was orchestrated by Butler to get the men he was investigating arrested.

Fernandez said Butler hired decoys, usually attractive women, to make passes at the men and suggest they meet for drinks at a local bar. In other cases, Butler used male decoys, including his employees, who posed as journalists or documentary film makers who wanted to conduct lengthy interviews with their subjects over drinks. In each case, Butler would call his officer contacts and give a description of the male target, the car he was driving and the moment he left the bar. After the man drove from the parking lot, the officer would fall in behind and arrest him.

Butler's attorney, William Gagen, did not respond to a phone message seeking comment. But in court last week, Gagen said if Butler tipped off officers about drunk drivers, it was no different from any other citizen who reports suspicious drivers. Investigators are now reviewing two arrests made by Tanabe in early January, according to the law enforcement source close to the probe. In both cases, men were invited to meet at The Vine, a popular wine bar on Danville's Hartz Avenue. After drinking with a Butler-hired decoy, according to the law enforcement source and former employees of Butler's, the men drove out of the parking lot and were quickly stopped and arrested by Tanabe. Tanabe worked patrol in Danville through a contract with the city and the sheriff's office. Rory Little, a professor of criminal law and procedure at UC Hastings, said the DUI cases might get dismissed as "outrageous government conduct" if such a scheme is proven. "There's something very wrong with an officer and a private investigator conspiring to set people up," Little said. Tanabe was placed on administrative leave and his bail set at $260,000, said Jimmy Lee, a spokesman for the sheriff's office. E-mail Justin Berton at


Anonymous said...

the WIVES of the men arrested for drunk driving were as I understand being represented in their DIVORCE AND CUSTODY cases by a San Ramon Ca attorney named MARY NOLAN (who also is said to have helped to set these men up by hiring the P.I.who set these men up) MARY NOLAN claims to be "good friends and goes to lunch several times a week" with a contra costa county family law JUDGE with the last name of CRAM , I am a bit curious if Judge Cram was the Judge handling the divorse and custody cases of any or all of the men who were arrested on the drunk driving charges ????? how deep does this corruption go in cc county ?(I personally had MARY NOLAN say this to me)

Anonymous said...

Very interesting, I agree with you!
How do you know MARY NOLAN? Very
important, this needs to be reseached. Please reply!

Anonymous said...

We don't have the problem of cops taking dope from the evidence locker in Reno. It NEVER arrives to the evidence locker!!!!!!