A former Danville police officer and Contra Costa County sheriff's deputy pleaded not guilty in Oakland federal court Monday to charges in connection with an ongoing Central Contra Costa County Narcotic Enforcement Team corruption case. Stephen Tanabe, 48, was allegedly involved in a scheme to set up divorcing men with DUI convictions.
Tanabe, an Alamo resident, was indicted last week on felony charges of aiding and abetting and two counts each of conspiracy and extortion "under color of official right." According to a 28-count indictment released by Contra Costa County in February, Tanabe participated in a "dirty DUI" scheme with private investigator Christopher Butler where Butler allegedly hired attractive women to lure men to bars and get them drunk.
He would then call Tanabe and have the men arrested for drunken driving as they were leaving, according to the complaint. The men in these cases were often the husbands of Butler's clients who were involved in legal battles with their spouses.
According to reports, Tanabe denies that he knew of the scheme or took bribes from Butler to make DUI arrests. Tanabe's attorney, Tim Pori, told reporters that the entire federal case is based on false information from Butler.
"Based on what I see so far, the case is pretty weak," Pori said. "These accusations come from the mouth of a liar, a thief, drug dealer and a pimp. Allegations that my client accepted cocaine are false."
Along with former CNET commander Normal Wielsch, Butler was arrested earlier this year on charges of selling stolen methamphetamine and marijuana from county evidence lockers. The country corruption case grew to include allegations of illegal weapons, prostitution and former San Ramon Police officer Louis Lombardi before being taken over by federal prosecutors in June.
Tanabe was released from custody and is currently arranging for the equity in home to be posted as bail. He will appear in court again on Feb. 7 for a status hearing and, again, in March with Wielsch, Butler and Lombardi for a related Contra Costa County criminal case.