Texas man gets 50-year jail term for stealing fajitas worth $1.2 million


[Representational image] | Creative Commons

A man in Texas has been handed down a 50-year prison sentence because he stole fajitas worth $1.2 million. A Cameron County court found Gilberto Escamilla guilty of stealing the fajitas over a period of nine years.

A doctor’s appointment in August last year landed the 53-year-old man in the county’s net, said local reports. He was arrested in October.

Fajitas on county funds

Escamilla stole the fajitas from the Darrel B Hester Juvenile Detention Centre, where he worked. The Cameron County Juvenile Justice Department does not serve fajitas to any detention centre inmate.

Yet, Escamilla ordered and received fajitas at the detention centre for nine years, paying for them from the county’s funds.

Peter Gilman, assistant district attorney at Cameron County, was quoted by the Brownsville Herald as saying that the entire scam cost the county $1,251,578. He also said he had never handled a case of this size in his career.

Meanwhile, Escamilla said during his testimony: “It was selfish. It started small and got bigger and out of control. It got to the point where I couldn’t control it anymore.”

Doctor’s appointment led to downfall

Escamilla might have continued to steal more county funds had he not scheduled a doctor’s appointment on August 7, 2017.

That day, when an employee with the Labatt Food Service in Harlingen called the detention centre to deliver 800 lbs (about 363 kg) of fajitas, a Juvenile Justice Department worker at the centre said it does not serve fajitas. Labatt Food Service had been delivering fajitas there for nine years by then.

“The receiver of the call rushes off to the supervisor and conveys to her the discussion that had been had, and that breaks the case,” said District Attorney Luis V Saenz, according to a Brownsville Herald report from last October.

“When Escamilla reports to work the next day, he is confronted with the discussion and he admits he had been stealing fajitas for nine years,” he added.

Gilberto Escamilla
In picture: Gilberto Escamilla, who has been given a 50-year sentence for stealing fajitas worth $1.2 million. Photo Credit: Cameron County Sheriff’s Office

Like an SNL skit’

The 800-lb order the detention centre refused in August 2017 was valued at $30,000 at most. However, the Cameron County Juvenile Justice Department dug deeper and found that the scam was much bigger. They also managed to find how Escamilla had managed to evade detection for nearly a decade.

Saenz said of Escamilla’s modus operandi: “He would literally, on the day he ordered them, deliver them to customers he had already lined up. We’ve been able to uncover two of his purchasers, and they are cooperating with the investigation.”

Saenz also blamed the county’s Juvenile Justice Department for the scam, saying: “Up and down the chain of authority, people were signing off on these things.”

He added: “It’s upsetting because the auditor gets a detailed invoice where it states the breakdown of what’s delivered, so they should’ve seen it.”

He observed: “If it wasn’t so serious, you’d think it was a Saturday Night Live skit. But this is the real thing.”

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