East Bay News
New allegations surface against narc officer
ANTIOCH, Calif. (KGO) -- There are new allegations in the law enforcement scandal that has rocked Contra Costa County. Former narcotics task force leader Norman Wielsch and four other police officers now face a civil rights lawsuit. They're accused of stealing property seized during illegal searches.
The county drug task force, known as CNET, headed by Wielsch would often work with local police agencies. Now, according to an attorney, three city of Antioch officers were central players in up to five illegal searches, one of them in 2009 at a hydroponics business.
"These officers are acting like mobsters and gangsters," said attorney Tim Pori.
Pori says his clients' civil rights were violated by a group of group of rogue police officers that included former Contra Costa Narcotics Enforcement Commander Norman Wielsch.
"On five different occasions we would find a similar modus operandi. That is they would go get a search warrant, they'd conduct a raid. Sometimes they'd return property. Sometimes they wouldn't," said Pori.
Sean and Kelley O'Toole own an Antioch business called "Grow It Yourself Gardens."
According to Pori, a surveillance video shows a Wielsch-led team of officers, guns drawn, conducting a search of the property in October 2009, with a warrant that was obtained under the premise that the O'Toole's store was a front for a marijuana growing operation.
Besides Wielsch, the suit claims three Antioch police officers were in on the search: Joshua Vincelet, James Wisecarver and Steven Aiello. Pori says this video show Wiescarver climbing a ladder to turn the camera away from the search activity.
"Ms. O'Toole had her Victoria Secret gift card taken. My client Mr. O'Toole had a bunch of expensive sports memorabilia taken. This is not criminal activity. This is not evidence of a crime," said Pori.
Much of the property seized by Wielsch and the others was never recovered from the police, even though no criminal charges were filed against the O'Toole's. The computers the couple uses to run their business were returned only after a court order.
In another case, Pori claims Wielsch and the others entered the Brentwood home of Jennifer Curtis, and took expensive jewelry, gift cards and cash, that was never documented or returned. She too was never charged with a crime.
Michael Cardoza is the attorney for Wielsch, who faces 28 felony counts related to the theft and sale of seized drug evidence. Cardoza says the man portrayed in the Grow Your Own Garden surveillance video is not Wielsch, but someone who looks like him.
"There's blood in the water. There will be attorneys that will try and seize opportunities to take advantage of Norm Wielsch's situation," said Cardoza.
Besides the three Antioch officers, another member of CNET was also named in the lawsuit. The city of Antioch is also named. ABC7 spoke to the city attorney late Wednesday, but she would not comment on the suit except to say Wielsch has not been an employee of Antioch for a very long time and that the three Antioch officers have never been employed by, CNET which is run by the state.
contra costa county, lawsuit, east bay news, laura anthony
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