Release by Winter Haven Police Department
An Auburndale man has been identified and arrested for multiple construction site thefts starting in October 2020 totaling $8,390.
Starting in October 2020, the construction site thefts were reported from new construction sites in Normandy Heights (off Hwy 540) and Villamar (off Cunningham Rd.) in Winter Haven. The thefts were reported by site managers, construction crews and by a witness who saw a vehicle backed up to a garage.
Fingerprints that had been located inside one of the residents came back to 26 year-old Fernando Gomez Mendoza (DOB 7-24-94, 1498 Berkley Rd., Auburndale, FL 33823). Mendoza worked at both of the neighborhoods on various dates since October. Further investigations revealed that a witness was able to describe a vehicle that was backed up to a garage where they could hear items being dragged across the garage floor. The vehicle, a gray Dodge Caravan was the vehicle of Mendoza’s girlfriend.
On Feb. 2, 2021 contact was made with the girlfriend who allowed detectives inside the Berkley Rd. residence. Several items were observed in plain view that were similar to those reported missing from the construction sites. The girlfriend stated she didn’t know anything about the items being stolen as Mendoza would tell her he was bringing them home to “fix” them.
Mendoza was contacted by phone the same day while working at an Orlando construction site. He met with detectives and initially denied taking items. However, serial numbers for many of the appliances and fixtures along with markings on the boxes confirmed the items were taken from the two construction sites. Mendoza also told detectives that he bought a bundle of front doors for $200 and also a range/stove from a Facebook seller for $80. Mendoza stated he knew the items had to be stolen because they looked brand new.
All totaled, Mendoza has been charged with burglary of 14 construction sites. On Feb. 2, 2021 he was booked into Polk County Jail and charged with 12 counts of Unoccupied Burglary of a Structure (F-3), nine counts of Petit Theft (M-1), three counts of Grand Theft (F-3) and one count of Dealing in Stolen Property (F-2). He has since bonded out of jail.
Items taken from the construction sites and located inside of Mendoza’s home were:
Silver Samsung Dishwasher – $437.09
Black/Silver Samsung Microwave – $188.88
Silver Samsung Refrigerator – $1,528.43
Small Pieces of Black/Gray Formica Countertop – $417.00
Two 3-Bulb Vanity Light Fixtures – $200.00 total
Black/Silver Samsung Range – $512.67
Nine White Colonial Steel Exterior Doors – 3,082.46 total
Two boxes Containing Cabinets – $200.00
Large Light Gray and White Counter Top – $100.00
Two White Interior Doors – $175.48
Bundle of Moulding/Trim Moulding – $200.00
Three Boxes of Bi-Fold Doors – $181.00 total
Dark Brown Cabinets – $1,167.06