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20-year federal fugitive arrested in Santa Rosa

A suspected cocaine trafficker sought by the federal government for two decades was arrested last week in Santa Rosa, U.S. Marshals announced Friday.

Ed Mendoza, 65, was arrested leaving an apartment Feb. 14 on the 600 block of Clover Drive after an extensive manhunt by a multi-agency task force, the U.S. Marshals Service said.

Drug Enforcement Agents originally arrested Mendoza in San Diego in 1994 and charged him with cocaine distribution and conspiracy. He was released on bond and failed to report to subsequent court dates.

The case went cold for 17 years, said Joe Palmer, a Deputy U.S. Marshal.

“He just kind of became a ghost,” he said. “The trail went cold real quick.”

In 2011, Marshals received information that Mendoza was living in the San Jose area.

The task force, which includes agents from the Marshals Service, FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, CHP, San Mateo and Santa Clara county sheriffs offices and San Francisco and Oakland police, searched for Mendoza in the South Bay for three years.

On Feb. 13, agents canvassed the streets of San Jose and received a tip that Mendoza was in Santa Rosa, Palmer said.

“He had family in San Jose,” he said. “He may have had a girlfriend in Santa Rosa that he was living with. He was just doing his best to stay out of sight.”

Agents staked out the Santa Rosa residence and identified Mendoza within 30 minutes, Palmer said.

Local law enforcement agents were not involved in the arrest, Palmer said, but the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office was notified.

Mendoza is being held without bond. He made an initial appearance in federal court in San Francisco and will eventually be moved to Southern California to face his original drug charges as well as the new bail jumping allegations, Palmer said.

U.S. Marshal Don O'Keefe, who heads the Northern California District office, praised the arrest.

“The tireless and relentless pursuit of fugitives by Deputy Marshals and Task Force officers has become a symbol of our resolve for justice,” he said in a statement.

You can reach Staff Writer Matt Brown at 521-5206 or matt.brown@pressdemocrat.com.

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