Former Mendota football coach refusing plea deal for insurance fraud

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A former Mendota football coach received national attention for his success. But he's refusing to take part in a plea deal for insurance fraud.

Beto Mejia is pondering the latest deal from prosecutors, reducing one or possibly two felony insurance fraud counts to misdemeanors. Tuesday he turned down a previous offer to make a video announcement.

Attorney Michael Idiart said, "It's debatable now as to what type of outreach that may have to the public or the TV. It's easy to say that it is only going to be limited to a certain area but as we know and the age we live in today, once it's out there, it can be out there."

Idiart says Mejia is not willing to use his influence, popularity and then fall from grace to make a public service announcement. The coach is accused of staging the theft of his ATV last year. The codefendant, Arturo Andrade, pleaded to one misdemeanor count of insurance fraud. He will not serve any jail time but will instead perform community service. Andrade's legal team says their client was merely an accomplice who followed orders.

Attorney Alex Martin said, "Because he was a student, because he was a player of that coach, because he was entrusted and believed in that coach, he did it, and these are the consequences."

Early last year, Mejia's success leading the Mendota Aztecs football team and his motivational coaching style prompted ESPN to do a 30 minute documentary. His arrest last September caused his abrupt departure in the middle of the season, after he was put on administrative leave. His attorney is hoping once the criminal case is resolved, the school district will allow Mejia to return to his job, and possibly share his mistake and what he has learned with students.

"He is a Mendota hometown boy and that's where he grew up," said Idiart. "That's where he played, that's where he coached and that's where he wants to coach and live."

Mejia will be back in court next month, his attorney says hopefully to finalize a deal.

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