One Year Ago Today (December 1, 2021)…A Desert Hot Springs woman who accused a mixed-race family of neglecting and sexually assaulting a young Black female family member pleaded not guilty to charges of providing false information to police.
Angelica Marie Mendez, 23, is facing one misdemeanor count each of providing false information to police and making a false report to police. She appeared for arraignment at the Larson Justice Center on Wednesday, and was scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on Dec. 17.
Mendez’s arrest in August by Riverside County sheriff’s deputies followed a video that she posted online of a mixed-race family eating at a Costco in Palm Desert. In the video, she accused the family of neglecting the girl.
The video went viral, resulting in the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department being flooded with calls and causing the family, from Arizona, to receive death threats.
According to the sheriff’s department, “This occurred on August 20th, after Mendez saw a mixed race family eating at a Costco in Palm Desert. Mendez not only reported this to law enforcement, she utilized social media to spread false information, criminal accusations and racial bias against what is by all accounts a happy and healthy family.”
In the video, Mendez can be heard saying that a Black girl accompanied by her white family members was being denied food and that the family was “probably using her as a slave.”
“Unfortunately, many members of the public accepted Mendez’s social media posts as truth before our investigation was complete,” the sheriff’s department said in a statement at the time. “The investigation into this incident involved four independent investigations in two states.”
“All four investigations determined that the allegations were false and made up by Mendez. The reckless actions of Mendez caused this family to suffer through death threats, closure of the father’s business and unnecessary stress and drama to the child.”
According to sheriff’s officials, Mendez also “falsely reported the physical and sexual abuse of a minor.”
At the request of Riverside County sheriff’s officials, police in Gilbert, Arizona, said they contacted the family seen in the video.
In a tweet, Gilbert police said they determined the “child to be safe and in good health” and “it was found that the child had refused to eat the day of the video recording due to an upset stomach.”
Gilbert police also said the Arizona Department of Child Safety conducted its own investigation into the incident and that “no evidence of any crime has been established.”
Riverside County sheriff’s officials said, “Anyone who recklessly abuses pubic services that could be directed toward actual crimes and crime victims will face the consequences of their actions.”
Mendez was arrested on Aug. 28 and booked into the John Benoit Detention Center. She was released the same day after posting $25 bail, according to court records.