LEADVILLE, Colo. (CBS4) — A former undersheriff will serve 15 months in jail and undergo treatment as a registered sex offender following his sentencing Friday.
At one time the second in command at the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Fernando Mendoza, 49, was fired after complaints were filed by several female employees of the department. The ensuing sexual harassment investigation led to discovery of Mendoza’s manipulation of his teenage step-daughter in 2012, according to prosecutors with the 5th Judicial District District Attorney’s Office.
Mendoza was indicted by a grand jury of seven counts in December of 2017 and faced the possibility of life in prison. But a year later he was convicted on two of the charges – Attempt to Commit First Degree Aggravated Incest, a felony, and Attempt to Commit Invasion of Privacy for Sexual Gratification – by a jury.
In its press release, the district attorney’s office said Mendoza “groomed” his step-daughter in hopes of fulfilling his own sexual gratification, then used his authority to keep her silent.
“Because of his position,” the press release states, “Mendoza arrogantly bragged that nobody would believe the victim if she spoke out because he was ‘a trained liar’ – an outrageous reference to his law enforcement status.”
“Sex offenders come in all stripes and while shocking that during his service as Undersheriff, the defendant was an active child predator, it is only fitting that now the stripes he shows will be prison stripes,” said Bruce Brown, 5th Judicial District Attorney. “We are grateful to the many survivors who bravely came forward to tell the truth. Without their courage, this day of reckoning would never have come.”
Mendoza’s sentence requires him to register as a sex offender upon his release. He will be on probation a minimum of ten years, a violation of which could lead to a life sentence in prison with the possibility for parole.
Lake County Sheriff Rodney Fenske told CBS4 that mandatory sexual harassment training for all employees was added after the allegations were made public.
Last November, Lake County residents elected Amy Reyes to lead the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. She is the second elected female sheriff in Colorado history.