East Bay News

Allegations continue to unfold in CNET scandal

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The drug scandal involving members of the Contra Costa Narcotics Enforcement team was back in court today. Explosive charges were revealed involving four men selling stolen drug evidence. The case is now the focus of a grand jury investigation.

Lawyers for the four former officers in this scandal say a grand jury is looking into these allegations, that multiple witnesses have been subpoenaed and that indictments could come down in a matter of months -- possibly involving even more officers.

All four officers appeared in a Walnut Creek courthouse today to answer to a long list of felony charges from stealing drugs from evidence and trying to sell them, to illegal weapons possession, bribery and conspiracy. Private investigator Christopher Butler, former San Ramon officer Louis Lombardi, former Danville officer Stephen Tanabe and the onetime head of the state-county drug enforcement CNET team, Norman Wielsch all entered not guilty pleas.

Federal authorities took over the lead role in this investigation earlier this month. While defense attorneys say they welcome the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office, some predict it could lead to the arrest of even more officers.

"I think the real thrust of their investigation is to look at what if any other police officers are involved here. Because they certainly want to vent all the facts they have to see how deep this runs in this community," said Wielsch's attorney Michael Cardoza.

"I welcome the federal investigation because I think they'll be less committed to a certain position, or certain stories that people have said, or statements made and they'll try to look at it objectively," said Stephen Tanabe's attorney Daniel Russo.

The list of charges against the four officers has grown to include a number of additional allegations. Prosecutors say they uncovered evidence of exchanges of ecstasy pills between the officers, discussions about how to make money in the marijuana business and even the sale of a half pound of marijuana.

There have been allegations that some of the officers also ran a brothel in Contra Costa County, but so far, no one has been charged in that.

The four officers will be back in court in October.

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cnet scandal, pleasant hill, contra costa county, lawsuit, drugs, crime, east bay news, cecilia vega
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