MARTINEZ -- A San Ramon family law attorney accused of taking part in a scheme to set up men going through divorces for drunken-driving arrests is being charged with bugging the cars of her clients' spouses to gain leverage in court cases, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced Tuesday.

Attorney Mary Alice Nolan, 60, was arrested at her Oakland home Tuesday on a six-count indictment charging her with conspiracy to unlawfully intercept communications, unlawfully intercepting communications, and tax evasion, prosecutors said in a news release. The grand jury indictment, the result of an investigation by the FBI and Internal Revenue Service, was returned Sept. 6 and unsealed by a federal judge at Nolan's initial court appearance Tuesday.

Nolan could not be reached for comment. An employee at Nolan's law office in San Ramon on Tuesday said she was unaware of the indictment against Nolan or whether Nolan has an attorney representing her in the criminal case.

Federal prosecutors allege that Nolan "conspired and procured" former private investigator Christopher Butler to illegally intercept wire, oral and electronic communications between Aug. 9 and Sept. 9, 2007.

When pleading guilty to illegal wiretapping in May, Butler told a federal judge he secretly recorded cellphone conversations by bugging cars on behalf of attorneys or their clients 75 to 100 times before his arrest in February 2011.


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He was arrested alongside former Contra Costa Narcotics Enforcement Team Commander Norman Wielsch for allegedly stealing and selling drug evidence in a scandal that widened to allegations of prostitution and the orchestrated drunken-driving arrests. Two other officers were arrested as part of the scandal, one from San Ramon already serving jail time for drug-related crimes, and another from Danville fighting his pending case involving the DUI arrests.

Contra Costa prosecutors say at least five men fell victim to the DUI scam, including Clayton contractor Declan Woods and Concord aeronautics engineer Dave Dutcher, both of whose ex-wives were being represented by Nolan. Four of the victims are suing Butler and others over the arrests, and the lawsuits filed separately by Woods and Dutcher each name Nolan as a co-defendant.

"She's finally going to have to pay for her crimes. It's overdue," Dutcher said Tuesday upon hearing of Nolan's arrest. "This is very good news."

Butler will be sentenced Sept. 25 for his guilty plea to wiretapping, as well as methamphetamine and marijuana distribution, theft, conspiracy, extortion and robbery. Nolan is scheduled to be arraigned on her indictment the same day.

Prosecutors allege that "on numerous occasions," Nolan and her staff used the listening devices installed by Butler to eavesdrop on conversations by spouses of Nolan's clients' "with the intent to use the intercepted information to assist Nolan's clients' legal proceedings."

Nolan's indictment makes no mention of the DUI scheme that Butler admitted to in federal court. Butler said he would hire attractive women to seduce his clients' spouses into drinking and driving, at which time Butler would tip off police. The DUI arrest would later be used as leverage against the men in divorce and child-custody proceedings.

Nolan's indictment further accuses her of avoiding $593,916 in income taxes from 2005 through 2008 by "causing false tax returns to be filed" with the IRS. Prosecutors said Nolan reported taxable income in negative amounts when her actual unreported taxable income was more than $1.8 million.

Nolan faces up to 15 years in prison and $750,000 in fines if convicted. She was expected to be released from federal custody Tuesday once she posted a $50,000 bond that will be secured by property.

Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.