Gilberto Escamilla, an employee with the Juvenile Justice Department, has been charged with a first-degree theft after he was discovered to have stolen over $1 million worth of fajitas. Escamilla, who is the subject of an ongoing investigation, is accused of stealing the fajitas over the course of nine years.
According to prosecutors, on August 7, Escamilla took a day off for a medical appointment. While Escamilla was away, a driver from the Juvenile Justice Department’s meat vendor called to confirm an order of 800 pounds of fajitas.
When the JJD employee told the meat vendor, Labatt Food Service, that the order was a mistake because the facility does not serve fajitas, the Labatt Food Service employee said that his company has been filling the fajita order to the facility for close to 10 years.
The investigation indicates that Escamilla would sell the fajitas to customers he had previously lined up on the day Labatt would deliver them.
On Aug. 7, Gilberto Escamilla took a day off to go to a medical appointment. A driver from Labatt Food Service in Harlingen — the Juvenile Justice Department’s meat vendor — called the kitchen to inform it of an 800-pound delivery of fajitas. The woman who answered the phone said the driver was mistaken, and that the kitchen did not serve fajitas. That was when the driver told her he had been delivering fajitas to the Juvenile Justice Department for the past nine years, Saenz said.
“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,” Saenz said. “When Mr. 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 was fired Aug. 8 and arrested Aug. 9 after the DA’s Office Special Investigations Unit obtained a search warrant. When officers searched Escaramilla’s house, they found packets of fajitas in his refrigerator.
At the time, the value of the order had been between $2,500 and $30,000, a state jail felony. Escamilla was booked into jail and made bond. But the DA’s Office kept digging. After gathering documents from Labatt Food Service and the County Auditor’s Office, which included invoices, vouchers and purchase orders, the investigations unit concluded that Escaramilla had stolen $1,251,578 worth of fajitas.
“He would literally, on the day he ordered them, 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.”
Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Rose Gomez of the Cameron County Juvenile Justice Department released a statement saying that Escamilla’s alleged actions have led to a review of department policy:
“The Juvenile Justice Department is working closely with the Auditor’s Office to institute procedures, controls and safeguards to avoid a recurrence of this type of situation. The Department expects that wrongdoers will be punished and assures that procedures and protocols have been established,” Gomez said. “The Department will continue to strive to provide necessary and appropriate care, custody and protection of those juveniles in its custody as well as protection of public moneys.”
Escamilla was immediately fired from his position and placed under arrest, being charged with first-degree felony theft.
After looking through through Labatt’s inventory records and conducting an audit, investigators found that Escamilla had stolen $1,251,578 worth of food.