Walnut Creek, California (EastBayDaily) — Pete Crooks, Senior Editor, Diablo magazine, is releasing his first published book, The Setup: A True Story of Dirty Cops, Soccer Moms, and Reality TV—a full-picture account of the Central Contra Costa County Narcotics Enforcement Team scandal of 2011. Diablo magazine will feature an interview with Crooks as the cover story of its January 2015 issue.
Author Crooks thought he was writing about a new reality show that was scheduled to start filming in the East Bay when he found himself in the middle of one of the Bay Area’s wildest police corruption scandals—a story that rocked headlines when it revealed stolen drugs, dirty DUIs, and suburban prostitution. Crooks’ reporting uncovered an intricate criminal conspiracy that involved five corrupt police officers, a dirty private investigator, and an unethical family law attorney—all of whom were later sentenced in federal court (references below). Crooks’ story has been featured on 48 Hours and This American Life.
The original pitch went like this: Chris Butler, a retired cop, ran a private investigation firm in Concord, California. His business had a fascinating angle: His firm was staffed entirely by soccer moms. In fact, Butler employed PI Super Moms: attractive, organized, smart, and trained in investigative techniques, self-defense, and weaponry. When this story came across Crooks’ desk at Diablo magazine in 2010, he was instantly hooked. He’d heard a little bit about Butler and his super moms in the news; they’d been featured in People magazine and on Dr. Phil. What Butler’s publicist was offering was too tantalizing to pass up: an opportunity to ride along with Butler and a few of his sexy PIs as they prepared to start filming a reality TV show.
But after the ride-along—and after he began receiving mysterious e-mails from one of Butler’s employees—Crooks started to realize something didn’t seem right. After doing a little digging, he discovered the “sting” he’d seen only had one real victim: him. The PI bust had been a setup.
Crooks wasn’t a hard-boiled crime reporter. He did lifestyle pieces for Diablo magazine, a regional publication. The more he learned about Butler’s operation, the more he realized he was in far over his head, and he soon found himself deep in the underbelly of fake sting operations, wannabe celebrities, police corruption, drug dealing, reality television, double-crossing employees, and more twists and turns than a dozen crime thrillers. The book expands considerably on all previous reporting about the scandal, with exclusive new interviews from the California Department of Justice agents who conducted the investigation and other key characters who had yet to be interviewed about the scandal. The Setup: A True Story of Dirty Cops, Soccer Moms, and Reality TV is a riveting true crime thriller and a darkly humorous examination of how far some people were willing to go for a shot at 15 minutes of fame.
Barney Fonzi, Group Publisher of Diablo magazine, states, “We’re very proud that Pete’s amazing story is being published as a book. Pete has continued to show an incredible amount of dedication, tenacity, and true journalistic integrity in reporting his award-winning story for Diablo magazine’s readers, and at the same time providing a valuable service to our community.”
About Diablo Publications For over 32 years, Diablo Publications has been creating award-winning publications, including Diablo magazine, Napa Sonoma magazine, Diablo Weddings, the Diablo City Book Series, Diablo Arts, and the Tri-Valley California Visitors Guide. Covering travel, theater, lifestyle, and home design, Diablo Publications celebrates the people, places, and pleasures of the East Bay and North Bay. Diablo Publications’ custom content division, Diablo Custom Publishing (DCP), provides complete print and online marketing communications and customer publishing services for corporate clients nationwide. For more information, visit diablomag.com or dcpubs.com.
References: Attorney Hartley West was given an award from the successful prosecution of the five cops and PI Chris Butler: Thursday, February 20, 2014 http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndca/pr/five-ndca-assistant-united-states-attorneys-among-fifty-seven-recipients-california
Mary Nolan, ex-family law attorney, sentenced in federal court: Monday, February 3, 2014 http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Divorce-lawyer-gets-2-years-in-tax-evasion-5201304.php
Ex-CCCNet commander Norm Wielsch sentenced in Federal Court: Wielsch gets 14-year sentence Cop stole drugs, robbed prostitutes – judge denies his house arrest bid Justin Berton: Monday, May 20, 2013 http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Ex-vice-cop-Wielsch-gets-14-year-sentence-4532972.php
Ex-PI Chris Butler sentenced in Federal Court: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Dirty-DUIs-figure-gets-8-year-sentence-3893977.php
Ex-Deputy Sheriff Steve Tanabe sentenced: Thursday, February 20, 2014 http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Ex-Deputy-Sheriff-Stephen-Tanabe-sentenced-in-DUI-5249741.php
Ex-San Ramon police officer Louis Lombardi sentenced: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Key-figure-in-dirty-DUI-stings-pleads-guilty-3535440.php
Ex-Richmond police officers Danny Harris and Ray Thomas are sentenced: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Ex-Richmond-cops-get-lenient-sentences-3805339.php