OAKLAND — A disgraced former commander of an elite Northern California drug task force will plead guilty to stealing drugs from evidence lockers and trying to sell them on the street with the help of a private investigator.
Under a plea deal filed Monday in federal court, Norman Wielsch, 51, on Wednesday will admit guilt in an Oakland courtroom to five drug and corruption charges stemming from a 2011 indictment, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
“After a full evaluation of all the evidence, he decided that it would be in his and his family’s best interest to plead guilty,” Wielsch’s attorney, Michael Cardoza, said Monday.
Wielsch was the commander of the now-defunct Central Costa County Narcotics Enforcement Team, an elite multi-agency task force that conducted drug raids and shut down prostitution rings.
Last year, the FBI arrested Wielsch and private investigator Christopher Butler after a grand jury indicted them for stealing drugs, operating a brothel and conducting phony sting operations to rob prostitutes.
Those arrests came after one of Butler’s most trusted employees wore a concealed wire and recorded the two men making a drug deal. A video appeared to show Wielsch counting money and airing his concerns about selling confiscated drugs.
As a private investigator, Butler also acknowledged setting up so-called “dirty DUIs” for wives in divorce cases. The scheme involved hiring attractive women to lure the husbands into cheating and drunken driving. Butler orchestrated the arrests after he was hired by ex-wives, prosecutors said.
At the time, Butler also was trying to land a cable reality show, “P.I. Moms of San Francisco,” that featured a crew of female detectives tracking down and videotaping cheating husbands.
Butler pleaded guilty in September to similar criminal charges and is serving an eight-year prison sentence. He said his crimes involved several other officers, including Wielsch.
Butler told authorities that Wielsch aided him when he opened a massage parlor in Pleasant Hill to front for a brothel. Butler added Wielsch shared in the profits and used his status as a law enforcement official to protect the operation, while ordering raids on competing brothels.
Cardoza said Wielsch’s alleged connection to the parlor was not among the charges he will be pleading to on Wednesday.
“He understands from that day on he will be serving a lengthy amount of time for the crimes he committed,” Cardoza said about Wielsch. “Norm certainly hopes other police officers are paying attention to what went on in this situation, and if they are ever tempted to do anything that they give it a second thought and not do it.”
Under terms of the deal, Wielsch, who was facing more than 25 years in prison, could spend up to 17 years behind bars when he’s sentenced in February.