Alleged gang thug Michael Mendez is being held by police in Paterson, N.J., after a drug search in his apartment uncovered a shocking discovery:
A 44-year old woman.
She was kept padlocked in a room by her boyfriend for long periods of time - perhaps as long as a decade - according to law enforcement officials.
The woman was discovered by members of the state police investigating Michael Mendez, believed to be a member of the Latin Kings street gang.
State police spokesman Sgt. 1st Class Brian Polite said based on interviews and evidence, investigators believe she was held there for 2-10 years.
Investigators said the woman was sometimes let out when her boyfriend was home and Mendez, 42, was a familiar face around the neighborhood.
A neighbor said he has known Mendez for a dozen years now and that he could often be seen outside, polishing a car and listening to music.The neighbor, who would not give his name due to safety concerns, said he saw the woman a few times in recent years, though it was rare.
Neighbors on either side of Mendez's top-floor, brick-building apartment said they weren't aware that another person lived in the apartment.
Mendez, who police say is a member of the Latin Kings, was being held Monday at Passaic County Jail. Authorities didn't know if he had an attorney.
No one answered when a reporter knocked on his apartment door Monday.
Mendez was charged with kidnapping, false imprisonment and other counts related to the drugs officials said they were looking for in the first place.
State police said they found 4,200 prescription pills valued at $100,000, 190 grams of marijuana valued at nearly $2,000 and nearly $23,000 in cash.