New Jersey man arrested after jailing a woman for up to ten years

Michael Mendez and his apartment 
By: Sarah Weiss 

A woman was freed from being kept locked in a room for possibly up to ten years.

Police said they were searching an apartment for drugs when they found a woman who they believe she was kept padlocked in a room for long periods of time over the past few years, perhaps as long as a decade.

A State Police Street Gang Unit searched the Paterson New Jersey home of Michael Mendez, when they found the 44-year-old woman. Mendez, who is 42 years old and reputed to be a member of the Latin Kings gang, is expected to appear in court on kidnapping and other charges.

Based on interviews and evidence, investigators believe the woman was kept in the bedroom for long periods of time for the last two years and possibly up to 10 years, state police spokesman Brian Polite said.

The neighbors on either side of Mendez’s top floor said they were not aware that another person was living in the apartment.

"I saw no woman," said a man who identified himself only as friend and opened the door a few inches as he spoke. "This is the first time I've heard of it."

Police said Mendez is a member of the Latin Kings gang. He was detained at the Passaic County Jail.

Mendez was charged with kidnapping, false imprisonment and other charges, including some related to drugs that officials said they were looking in the first place. State police said they found 4,200 prescription pills worth $100,000, 190 grams of marijuana worth nearly $2,000 and $23,000 in cash in his apartment.

According to court documents, Mendez has two prior convictions for aggravated assault, one of which carried a prison sentence of three months.

The woman was receiving a medical evaluation.