Texas prosecutors have charged a former juvenile detention center employee with stealing $1.2 million worth of fajitas over a nine-year period in a Tex-Mex food trafficking scheme.
The scheme came to light when Gilberto Escaramilla, an employee of the Cameron County Juvenile Justice Department, took off work Aug. 7 and a delivery driver tried to drop off 800 pounds of fajitas. The detention center does not serve fajitas.
“If it wasn’t so serious, you’d think it was a Saturday Night Live skit. But this is the real thing,” Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz told the Valley Morning Star.
When a delivery driver from Labatt Food Service called the office of the detention center Aug. 7 to drop off the fajitas, a confused receptionist told the man the detention center didn’t serve fajitas.
“When Mr. Escaramilla reports to work the next day, he is confronted with the discussion, and he admits he had been stealing fajitas for nine years,” Saenz said.
Authorities then searched Escaramilla’s house and discovered packets of the same kind of fajitas in his refrigerator. After combing through nearly a decade of records from Labatt Food Service, investigators determined that Escaramilla had used taxpayer funds to purchase $1,251,578 worth of fajitas.
“He would literally, on the day he ordered [the fajitas], deliver them to customers he had already lined up,” Saenz said. “We’ve been able to uncover two of his purchasers, and they are cooperating with the investigation.”
Escaramilla’s food trafficking scheme went undetected for years, even though it required sign-off from other officials in the detention center system. Saenz said the scheme represents a “total failure” in the local government’s ability to counteract fraudulent activity.
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