For almost a decade, Gilberto Escamilla kept up the scheme: Order fajitas to the juvenile detention center where he worked - steal them - and then sell them to his own customers on the side for a tidy profit.
When he was caught, the true breadth of his crime was almost staggering — more than $1 million worth of stolen fajitas over the course of the caper.
Escamilla, 53, a former employee at Cameron County Juvenile Detention Center, pleaded guilty on Friday to theft by a public servant. He was fired on August 8 and arrested on Aug. 9.
“It was selfish. It started small and got bigger and out of control,” Escamilla said while testifying, according to The Brownsville Herald. “It got to the point where I couldn’t control it anymore.”
Escamilla was arrested last year when a driver from a food service company called the kitchen of the detention center to say an 800-pound delivery of fajitas arrived. Escamilla usually received those orders, but he was at a doctor’s appointment that day.
There was one key flaw in the scam: minor inmates at the detention center are not served fajitas. This prompted some questions from county officials, according to the Fort-Worth Star Telegram.
The delivery was for less than $30,000, so Escamilla was originally charged with a state jail felony offense.
During their investigation, officers searched Escamilla’s house and found packages of the stolen food in his fridge. Apparently, Escamilla had been accepting deliveries of fajitas for more than nine years, the Dallas Morning News reported. He would then sell them to his own customers he’d lined up.
After Escamilla’s arrest last fall, District Attorney Luis V. Saenz told The Brownsville Herald that “if it wasn’t so serious, you’d think it was a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit.”
Cameron County Assistant District Attorney Peter Gilman said he’d never seen seen a case like this before. The total haul of fajitas amounted to $1,251,578, The Brownsville Herald reported.
Gilman asked State District Judge J. Manuel Banales to sentence Escamilla to 50 years to send a warning. A warning that if you’re a public servant and you steal, you’re going to face a long prison sentence.
“We feel a strong message should be sent,” Gilman said, according to The Brownsville Herald.
According to the newspaper, before he was escorted away away to begin his sentence, Escamilla was allowed a brief moment to say goodbye to his family.
[Photo: Cameron County Sheriff's Office]