Former CNET Commander Sentenced To 14 Years For Drug, Robbery, And Civil Rights Violations
Norman Wielsch, the former Commander of the Central Contra Costa County Narcotics Enforcement Team and a Special Agent Supervisor of the California Department of Justice, was sentenced to 168 months in federal court in Oakland, yesterday, United States Attorney Melinda Haag announced.
On December 5, 2012 Wielsch pleaded guilty to five felony counts – one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana and 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, one count of theft from programs receiving federal funds, two counts of civil rights conspiracy, and one count of Hobbs Act robbery.
In pleading guilty to the charges, Wielsch, 52, admitted stealing from evidence facilities $30,000 to $70,000 worth of marijuana and methamphetamine that had been seized during legitimate CNET raids. Specifically, Wielsch admitted that he stole at least twenty pounds of marijuana and more than 400 grams of high-purity methamphetamine (“ice”) between November 2010 and February 2011. He further admitted conspiring to distribute these drugs with his codefendant, private investigator and former Antioch police officer Christopher Butler, 51.
In pleading to the civil rights conspiracies, Wielsch admitted that he and Butler participated together in a phony “sting” operation in which they falsely detained a young man under the guise of a legitimate law enforcement operation, conducted warrantless searches, and kept narcotics that were taken during the “sting.” Wielsch also admitted that he and Butler staged what purported to be legitimate sting operations against prostitutes, but instead of seizing evidence and citing the prostitutes, they unlawfully took the prostitutes’ money and property for themselves. Wielsch acknowledged that they took more than $10,000 from individuals in the course of their prostitution robberies.
The sentence imposed by U.S. District Court Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong also included a $150,000 fine and five year period of supervised release. Wielsch has been in custody since he was remanded at the time of his guilty plea.
Wielsch and Butler were indicted by a federal Grand Jury on August 9, 2011. Butler pleaded guilty on May 4, 2012, to a Superseding Information charging the same narcotics conspiracy, theft from programs receiving federal funds, two civil rights conspiracies, and robbery counts to which Wielsch pleaded guilty, as well as extortion under color of official right and illegal wiretapping. On September 25, 2012, Butler was sentenced to 96 months imprisonment and a $20,000 fine, receiving a sentencing reduction for his cooperation with law enforcement in this and other investigations.
Hartley M. K. West is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Alycee Lane. The prosecution is the result of a lengthy investigation by the FBI with the assistance of the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office.