Fresno police officer charged with insurance fraud

FRESNO, Calif.

David Mendoza spent ten years as a Fresno police officer, but Tuesday, he was a defendant in court.

Mendoza pleaded not guilty to a couple of felony charges related to a stolen car report he made last year. Then, he stayed in the courthouse for a few hours, trying to avoid our cameras and questions.

Mendoza's career with the Fresno Police Department came to an end last October in a cloud of controversy.

"That termination stemmed from information we had received from the California Dept. of Insurance that they had launched a criminal investigation against Officer Mendoza," said Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer.

Investigators at the Dept. of Insurance say they discovered Mendoza took a vehicle to a dealership last year.

After he found out it needed major mechanical repairs, they say he had it towed and then had it reported stolen a few days later.

When the CHP found the vehicle, Mendoza asked the insurance company to pay for the repairs, blaming the damage on the supposed thief.

The insurance investigation also led to an internal affairs investigation.

The details of internal affairs investigations are secret, but recently filed criminal charges show the 43-year-old now former officer is accused of two counts of insurance fraud, and one count of making a false report of a felony.

The internal affairs investigation would not contribute evidence to the criminal case, but Legal Analyst Ralph Torres says the result indicates serious trouble.

"If the gentleman was terminated, that's some indication there was good cause to do that - criminal or otherwise," Torres said.

Action News tried to ask Mendoza for an explanation, but he hid in the courtroom for hours, sending his co-defendant out to look for the cameras. When he finally came out and saw our reporter, he literally ran away -- which is why he's a blur in this photo.

Torres says prosecutors will have to prove Mendoza knew his vehicle really wasn't stolen when he filed the police report and the insurance claim.

"Filing a false report, absolutely have to show that it wasn't just a mistake," he said. "So you file a report saying your car was stolen and in fact, it wasn't, that's not a mistake, that's a lie. That's fraud."

Mendoza is appealing his termination. He's due back in court next month on his criminal case.

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