In August 2017, Gilberto Escamilla took one day off work from his job at the Cameron County Juvenile Justice Department. That one day off work changed the course of his life forever. As we reported last summer, a delivery driver from Labatt Food Service in Harlingen arrived with at the detention center with a delivery of over 800 pounds of fajitas. You see, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department doesn’t serve fajitas. The driver was shocked to learn this was the case because, as it turns out, he’d been delivering the same fajitas order for the past nine years.
Fired on August 8 and arrested on August 9, the District Attorney’s Office Special Investigations Unit found several packages of fajitas in the Texas man’s freezer after officers obtained a search warrant. The DA’s office continued to dig and found that over time, Escamilla had in fact stolen $1,251,587 in fajitas. It seems that on the day he’d receive the delivery, Escamilla already had buyers and customers lined up for the haul. Arrested on first-degree theft felony, defendant Gilberto Escamilla was sentenced on April 20, 2018 to 50 years in prison for the fajita theft operation.
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.” Escamilla pleaded guilty, stating that it completely spiraled out of control. “I feel horrible. I wish I could take this back. It was selfish,” Escamilla testified to the South Texas court. “It got to the point where I couldn’t control it anymore.” The judge dismissed an additional theft charge after the original sentencing.
Escamilla’s attorney asked for five years in prison, giving opportunity for Escamilla to repay stolen taxpayer funds, bypassing a long prison sentence. As the Herald reported, Cameron County Assistant District Attorney Peter Gilman asked State District Judge J. Manuel Bañales for the five decades behind bars not only because of the amount of money stolen, but because Escamilla “was a public servant” and to send a strong message.