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Police: Suspected gang member locked woman away for years

By Khara Lewin, CNN
updated 12:47 PM EDT, Tue August 14, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Police were searching for drugs when they found the woman
  • They believe she was locked up for long periods for at least 2 years
  • She was found in the apartment of her boyfriend, an alleged gang member

New York (CNN) -- Police looking for drugs in a New Jersey apartment found a woman padlocked in a bedroom, where they say she may have been held against her will for extended periods over the past two years.

New Jersey State Police said Monday its gang unit arrived last Thursday at the Paterson home of Michael Mendez, 42, whom they called an alleged Latin Kings gang member.

Detectives discovered more than 4,000 prescription pills "valued at more than $100,000," marijuana, and more than $22,000 in cash, state police said.

But in what authorities called "a strange twist," detectives also found behind a padlocked door in Mendez's apartment a 44-year-old woman. So far they have only identified her as his girlfriend.

Investigators believe the woman was locked up for "extended periods of time over the last two years and possibly longer."

The investigation is ongoing and the woman was taken to St. Joseph's Medical Center for evaluation.

Mendez is now in the Passaic County Jail facing numerous charges including two counts of criminal restraint and possession of controlled dangerous substances with intent to distribute.

Mendez is being held on $1 million bail.

It couldn't immediately be determined whether he was being represented by an attorney.

More from WPIX: Woman found inside drug stash house possibly imprisoned for years

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