An unexpected doctor’s appointment -- and 800 pounds of fajitas -- proved to be Gilberto Escamilla’s undoing.
Escamilla, 53, of Brownsville, Texas, was sentenced Friday to 50 years in prison after pleading guilty to theft by a public servant, according to the Brownsville Herald. Escamilla is a former employee of the Cameron County juvenile detention center.
Prosecutors said Escamilla spent nine years scamming the county by ordering fajitas for the Darrel B. Hester Juvenile Detention Center, then intercepting the orders and selling them to his own customers. He was caught in August 2017 when he missed a shipment due to a doctor’s appointment.
Other employees of the detention center were baffled when a delivery driver showed up with 800 pounds of fajitas, a dish that is not served in their kitchen. The driver told them he had been delivering the Mexican specialty to the facility since 2008.
“It was selfish,” Escamilla said during his sentencing hearing on Friday, according to the Herald. “It started small and got bigger and out of control. It got to the point where I couldn’t control it anymore.”
Cameron County Assistant District Attorney Peter Gilman requested the stiff sentence to send a message to public servants willing to steal from taxpayers, the Herald reported.
“We feel a strong message should be sent,” Gilman said.
Under Texas law, Escamilla faced up to 99 years in prison for the first-degree felony, NBC News reported. Theft of property becomes a first-degree felony when a person steals property valued at $200,000 or more.
An additional theft charge against the defendant was dismissed as part of an earlier plea deal.
Escamilla was fired Aug. 8 and arrested at his home, where investigators found packages of fajitas in his refrigerator. The detectives were able to track down some of his customers, who cooperated with the investigation.
Escamilla was given a moment to tell his family goodbye before being escorted from court Friday, the Herald reported. He was taken to the Cameron County Jail to await transfer into the state prison system.
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