Mendota High football coach Robert “Beto” Mejia pleaded no contest Wednesday to misdemeanor insurance fraud, avoiding jail time but leaving his future with the school in doubt.
His job status will be determined at a later date by the Mendota Unified superintendent and school board, a district spokesperson said. It’s also unclear whether Mejia’s legal issue will affect his efforts to renew his expired teaching credential.
Mendota coach Beto Mejia received two years probation, 250 hours of community service, restitution fees of $2,200 and a $150 fine.
Nonetheless, Mejia expressed relief that – 16 months after his arrest – the case is resolved.
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Mejia, 33, received two years probation and was ordered to complete 250 hours of community service by May 6. He paid a $150 fine as well as $2,200 in restitution to cover costs related to the allegation that he made a false statement to an insurance company.
If I’m back at Mendota, great. If not, there’s avenues I can take. I would like to keep coaching at Mendota. But this program is bigger than me. And this program will be fine.
Mendota coach Beto Mejia, whose future at the school remains to be determined after pleading no contest to insurance fraud
“I’ve been ready for this to be over,” Mejia said. “I don’t like coming to court. Twice, I spent my Christmas break coming to the courtroom. I’m just tired of this and want to put it behind me.
“I love coaching. I love being around the kids. I’m doing it for a community I care about. If I’m back at Mendota, great. If not, there’s avenues I can take. I would like to keep coaching at Mendota. But this program is bigger than me. And this program will be fine.”
Superintendent Paul Lopez deferred comment until a later date. District spokesperson Cary Catalano said Mejia’s future will be determined once official paperwork from the courts is received.
Considered a probationary employee, Mejia is under contract through the end of this school year. Mejia, the football coach for much of the past five seasons, has been a teacher at Mendota for less than two years, Catalano said.
Under Mejia, the Mendota football team achieved championship success amid the daily struggles of an impoverished farming community and inspired an ESPN documentary.
On the field, Mejia brought national prominence to the small school and impoverished community by winning Central Section Division VI championships in 2011 and 2012. The team’s success amid the continued struggles of the small farming community inspired an ESPN documentary that initially was broadcast in February 2014.
Seven months later, Mejia and former Mendota High football player Arturo Andrade were arrested, with the coach accused of attempting to collect on an insurance policy by falsely claiming his all-terrain vehicle had been stolen. Andrade previously had pleaded no contest to misdemeanor insurance fraud and was sentenced to two years probation and 50 hours of community service.
Mejia was suspended as a teacher and prohibited from coaching for the remainder of the 2014 season. He did return to both positions at the start of this school year – a move approved by Lopez, the first-year superintendent.
The Aztecs advanced to the section Division V championship but lost to Immanuel 35-20 and finished 9-5.
Throughout it all, Mejia has had his supporters. There were “towers” of letters and emails sent in recent months to his lawyer, Erin Ormonde.
“(Mejia) had a brief lapse of judgment and felt an immediate remorse,” Ormonde said. “Robert wanted to deal with what he did and move on. He recently received his master’s degree. He’s doing everything he can do to renew his teaching credential.
“I know Mendota wants him back. He loves coaching those guys and thinks about the community first.”