Arrested SWFL DCF worker was Lee county teacher, coach | #teacher | #children | #kids

CAPE CORAL, FLA — “They failed us this time,” said Joshua Negron.

You may remember hearing from Negron and his longtime partner Alisha, back in May 2020, after their son’s DCF case manager, Enrico “Rick” Mendes, was arrested and charged with molesting kids related to him.

“He came inside, took son to the room, took pictures, what those pictures are we don’t know,” said Negron.

Mendes is now also accused of owning child porn.

But he has since pleaded not guilty to his charges and bonded out of jail.

“If you let them in your house, make sure they do everything accordingly and right,” said Negron.

Mendes worked for DCF for about a year, but before that, he spent time between 2015 and 2018 working for the Lee county school district.

His newly released personnel file shows he worked as a substitute teacher and coach of the Boy’s Golf team at South Fort Myers high.

His file of chock full of references from different people, who praise his passion as a teacher, boy scout leader and as someone who is “great with kids.”

It’s a reality that’s hard to reconcile against the crimes he’s accused of.

Licensed counselor Dr. Jaime Sterling says Mendes’ arrest provides room for parents to have an important conversation about inappropriate behavior with their kids.

“This is part of the grooming process a lot of times and so in order to be able to groom children, they have access to children through these avenues in which they would be a trusted source,” said Sterling.

When it comes to the topic of potential abuse, she encourages parents to ask open-ended questions.

“Was there ever a time you where not comfortable around this person? Did anything happen that made you feel uncomfortable?” said Sterling.

Sterling adds that another important tool to help pick up on anything inappropriate, is to watch your child’s behavior.

You have to pay attention to what your child’s “Normal” is and look for any variations,” said Sterling.

Mendes is due back in court on July 29.

Dr. Sterling also says a key to preventing abuse is by educating parents and kids about it.

She adds that she recognizes that concerned parents may have more questions. So she’ll be hosting a live q & a about this issue on Friday, June 26 at 12 p.m. on Facebook.

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