Criminal case against ousted Lake Co. undersheriff turned over to grand jury

Posted at 3:50 PM, Dec 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-04 20:39:40-05

LAKE COUNTY, Colo. – The criminal investigation involving former Lake County undersheriff Fernando Mendoza has been turned over to a grand jury, which will determine if he will face any criminal charges.

Mendoza was fired from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office two weeks ago because several women in the office levied sexual harassment allegations against him in reports to the office, the district attorney, and Denver7.

Fifth Judicial District Attorney Bruce Brown has had an active investigation into allegations against Mendoza for several weeks, and he confirmed to Denver7 Monday his case had been sent to a grand jury.

The grand jury will review the case and determine what, if any, charges would be filed against Mendoza.

The sheriff’s office has also hired an outside legal counsel to “assist in personnel matters,” the board of county commissioners said last week.

The board also said that the sheriff’s office had put in place new sexual harassment training since Mendoza’s firing, and added that commissioners would have meetings in coming weeks with each of the county’s departments to be sure employees understand the new policies.

Three women who were dispatchers working for the sheriff’s office accused Mendoza of making unwanted sexual advances and remarks toward them, telling Denver7 he often made lewd comments toward them and sent them inappropriate text messages.

Two of the women — Maria Chavez and Nicole Garner — told Denver7 last week they had since resigned from their positions, but said they were pleased that no other women might be victimized.

It’s unclear how soon the grand jury might return a determination of charges in Mendoza’s case.