|TRENTON – Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced that a Paterson man pleaded guilty today to a drug charge and a charge of criminal restraint in connection with his arrest last August, when detectives executed a search warrant at his house during a drug investigation and discovered that he had been keeping his girlfriend locked in their bedroom.
Michael Mendez, 42, of Paterson, a reputed member of the Latin Kings street gang, pleaded guilty before Superior Court Judge Greta Gooden Brown in Passaic County to third-degree charges of criminal restraint and possession of a controlled dangerous substance (marijuana and prescription pills) with intent to distribute within 1,000 feet of a school. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Mendez be sentenced to five years in state prison, including 18 months of parole ineligibility.
Deputy Attorney General Annmarie Taggart took the guilty plea for the Divison of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau. The charges are the result of an investigation by the New Jersey State Police.
On Aug. 9, 2012, members of the New Jersey State Police Street Gang Unit executed a search warrant at Mendez’s residence on Alois Place in Paterson and arrested Mendez. During the search of the house, detectives seized approximately 150 prescription anti-anxiety and pain pills for which he had no prescription (alprazolam and hydrocodone), nearly 7 ounces of marijuana, and more than $22,000 in cash.
Detectives also found Mendez’s girlfriend inside a bedroom of the residence with the door padlocked on the outside so that she could not leave. It was determined that the woman had been locked in the bedroom for extended periods of time over the prior two years.
Judge Gooden Brown scheduled sentencing for Mendez for March 28.