A South Texas juvenile justice department employee was arrested for felony theft after he was accused of stealing $1.2 million worth of fajitas over nine years.
According to Cameron County District Attorney, Luis Gilberto Escaramilla was fired on Aug.8 and arrested the next day after authorities obtained a search warrant and found packages of fajitas in his refrigerator that he was selling away. He was then released from jail after posting bond. On Tuesday, however, he was arrested again on the more serious charge of felony theft, said the Dallas Morning News.
The Brownsville Herald reported that Escaramilla had been stealing the Tex -Mex cuisine food item for the past nine years until he was caught on Aug. 7. District Attorney Luis V. Saenz, describing the events on the day said Escaramilla had taken the day off to go for a medical appointment. A driver from the Juvenile Justice Department’s meat vendor— Labatt Food Service in Harlingen — called the department’s kitchen to inform that they were bringing an 800-pound delivery of fajitas.
The woman who answered the phone told the driver he mistaken, and that the department did not serve fajitas. It was then that the driver told her he had been delivering fajitas to the Juvenile Justice Department for the past nine years, Saenz stated.
“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,” he added. “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.”
The Brownsville Herald also stated the value of the order on Aug.8 had been between $2,500 and $30,000. Upon further investigation of documents including invoices, vouchers and purchase orders from Labatt Food Service and the County Auditor’s Office it was found 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.”
In a statement reported by the Brownsville Herald, Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Rose Gomez of the Cameron County Juvenile Justice Department said the employee’s 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 money (sic).”
Saneez in his comments said: “Up and down the chain of authority, people were signing off on these things. 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 added: “If it wasn’t so serious, you’d think it was a Saturday Night Live skit. But this is the real thing,”