House searched after ecstasy allegations

Jose Carmen Mendez

MANKATO — A Mankato restaurant manager could be facing deportation after he was arrested for allegedly providing ecstasy to two women at a downtown bar.

Jose Del Carmen Mendez's residence at 336 Cardinal Drive also was searched Monday by the Minnesota River Valley Drug Task Force as a result of the ecstasy investigation, according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday in Blue Earth County District Court. 

Investigators reported finding several types of prescription pills, steroids and two handguns. The incident at the bar allegedly took place during the early morning hours Monday.

Mendez has been charged with felony second- and third-degree drug sales, drug possession and illegal possession of a firearm.

Mendez's attorney, Alberto Miera Jr., said Mendez is a good person and the allegations should be kept in perspective.

"This is an extremely hard-working person who, when you look at the whole of it, has contributed a lot to the community," Miera said. "Mistakes should be treated with the consistency of how you would treat your neighbor and not by jumping to the presumptive negative stereotype."

Mendez, 40, also known as Melo, was not home when the house was searched, but a roommate identified as Alberto Alonzo Lara, 20, was in a bedroom. Investigators reported Lara told them he had been living at the house for about four months. He said he traveled to Mankato from Los Angeles to live with "uncle Melo" and work at El Mazatlan restaurant on Madison Avenue, where Mendez is the manager.

Lara also told investigators he had been living with relatives in Ohio before moving to Mankato, but he was planning to return to Los Angeles soon. The owner of El Mazatlan is Heraclio Mendez of Gallo Way, Ohio, according to business records with the Minnesota Secretary of State's Office. Lara was charged with fifth-degree drug possession and released.

Mendez was arrested during a traffic stop later Monday. After initially asking for an attorney, Mendez agreed to talk to investigators, according to the complaint. He allegedly admitted he didn't have a prescription for the steroids, but said he was taking them to treat a sore elbow.

Both of the guns were brought to Mankato by Lara from Ohio, he allegedly told the agents. One was owned by Lara and the other was given to Mendez as a gift for protection while he worked in the restaurant's new food truck, according to the complaint.

One of the women who took a portion of one of the ecstasy pills, another Mazatlan employee, got "messed up" and was taken home by Lara, Mendez allegedly said. The other woman returned the pill she had, saying she didn't want it.

When one of the agents asked Mendez if he had been deported in 2003 because he had used a deceased cousin's immigration documents, he allegedly said it was actually 2002. He also said he reapplied after being deported.

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