Callie Thornton
NAPLES — A Collier County Sheriff’s deputy faces grand theft charges on allegations she collected thousands of dollars in childcare subsidies for adopted children no longer in her care.

Cpl. Sandra Lois Mendez, 40, was arrested on Friday and charged with one count of scheming to defraud, 13 counts of grand theft and one count of petty theft.

The combined counts total roughly $4,000 in defrauded funds.

Collier Sheriff Kevin Rambosk called the arrest of one of his deputies “unfortunate.”

“However we need to see what the final outcome will be,” he said.

According to an affidavit, Mendez continued receiving monthly checks for $305 from the Department of Children and Families more than a year after the children she adopted moved away to live with their biological mother in North Carolina.

Mendez’s ex-husband, Collier deputy David Mendez, notified Sheriff’s Office investigators in December 2009 after noticing the monthly income while untangling the couple’s finances before a divorce.

Collier detective Thomas Zanfardino contacted DCF and bank officials to verify that Sandra Mendez had failed to notify the agency after the boys moved away in 2008 and kept the money.

The payments are standard for children adopted from the foster system, said Erin Gillespie, spokeswoman for Children and Families.

Mendez, originally hired in 1998, resigned in 2000 and was later rehired in 2003. She is currently assigned to the East Naples station, and she earns an annual salary of $55,940.82.

A Daily News reporter saw Mendez arrive at the State Attorney’s Office on Friday around noon, for a meeting with Zanfardino. The detective arrested her at 11:50 a.m. at the same address, according to a report.

Bond was set at $35,500. Arraignment is scheduled for Feb. 22.

The Collier County Sheriff’s Office placed Mendez on administrative leave with pay and will open an internal investigation, according to Rambosk. On Monday, Mendez will be placed on administrative leave without pay, where she will remain for the duration of the case.

The internal investigation will run concurrently with the court case, Rambosk said, and it will finish only after the case is disposed.

According to the affidavit, Mendez, whose name before marriage was Sandra Loyd, adopted the children in March 2001. At the same time she began receiving a monthly $305 subsidy check.

The boys moved in with Sandra and David Mendez when the couple married. In the summer of 2007, the children were sent to Rock Point, N.C., to live with their biological mother. The affidavit suggests the move was made permanent in August 2008.

Sandra Mendez’s bank accounts showed that in 2009 she established a savings and checking accounts for one of the boys, the affidavit states. She deposited $350 in the two accounts, but never sent any money to the child, Zanfardino reported.

Sandra and David Mendez also have a child together.

Mendez headed the Sheriff’s Office’s Adopt a Soldier program, and she was involved in other aspects of the agency, Rambosk said. A 2007 Daily News article on the program noted that Mendez was chairwoman for the agency’s family activity committee.

“She is on a number of notable programs in the agency, notably the Adopt a Soldier program, so it’s unfortunate,” Rambosk said.

Should the allegations be true, Mendez would be held accountable for the full amount lost, said Gillespie, the Children and Families spokeswoman.

“If you take money from the government, you will have to pay it back,” she said.

Staff writer Elysa Batista contributed to this report.

Staff writer Elysa Batista contributed to this report.
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