There are a lot of crazy “get rich quick” schemes out there. People will try and sell anything, any cockamamie idea they can in order to make a buck.
One state worker happened upon a genius scheme early in his career and tried it out on a whim. He couldn’t believe it worked, and soon enough, he was repeating the lucrative scheme weekly with little pushback. But all good things must come to an end…
Gilberto had been working at the Cameron County Juvenile Detention Center in San Benito, Texas for over ten years. He would oversee deliveries, help out in the kitchen, nothing too dangerous or complicated. It was a good job, all things considered, and at 53-year-old, he was lucky to have it.
As an older man, Gilberto was reaching an age where he had to keep an eye on things medically. It had been a long time since he’d gone in for a check-up and though he didn’t like to take days off work, he decided it was time. He had sick time, after all…
The Fateful Order
That day, as Gilberto sat in the doctor’s office, an incident was brewing at the Cameron County Juvenile Detention Center. The driver of a food service company called “The Kitchen” had arrived in the back with an 800-pound order of fajitas for the inmates. It was an order Gilberto usually signed for.
Refuse the Fajitas
His supervisors, thinking nothing of the order, decided to sign for it, until they realized that the inmates never got fajitas for their meals. Instead of taking the product, however, they chose to refuse it, that way they could ask Gilberto about it when he got back the next day. After all, they didn’t want to be accepting erroneous deliveries…
What they weren’t aware of, was that Gilberto Escamilla had ordered the 800-pounds of fajitas quite deliberately. Indeed, despite the fact that none of the minor inmates at the detention center were never served fajitas, they had been getting a delivery in almost every week…for nine years.
That’s right, Escamilla had been accepting deliveries of fajitas for more than nine years. What did he do with hundreds upon hundreds of pounds of fajitas every week? Why, sell them of course, to his own hungry customers who had lined up and ordered them from him in advance. It was a fairly lucrative affair as well: considering he wasn’t paying for it…
The Status Quo
And if Gilberto Escamilla hadn’t taken a day off to go to the doctor, it was likely that pattern of pilfering prisoner food may have continued unabated for another decade. His supervisor did come to him the next day and ask him about the odd shipment of course. As soon as he heard the question, Escamilla knew the jig was up,
Give it Up
Escaramilla decided that the scheme, however lucrative, had gone on long enough. The confrontation with his supervisor had brought that point home: though allegedly it was something he’d been thinking about for some time. As expected he was fired immediately, but that wasn’t all…
Less than a Felony
The single delivery of fajitas, though ample, was for less than $30,000. Therefore, when Escamilla was arrested the next day, he was only charged with a state jail felony offense. It wasn’t a slap on the wrist, but it was nowhere near what he would ultimately be charged with…
In the course of their investigation, officers were sent to search Escamilla’s house for any further evidence of fajita-based wrongdoing. What they found was quite telling indeed. The disgraced prison worker had packages of the stolen fajitas inside his fridge. It was evident that he had been doing this for some time…
District Attorney Luis V. Saenz couldn’t believe what he was hearing when the officers came to him with the case. He thought that they were messing with him, that this was some sort of a practice idea for a Saturday Night Live’ skit, Unfortunately for him and for Escamilla, that was not the case.
Never Seen It
Cameron County Assistant District Attorney Peter Gilman was similarly flabbergasted. He too had never seen a case of this magnitude. We mean magnitude here because after finding out about his nine year scheme, the DA’s office decided to calculate how much taxpayer money he’d spent on fajitas over the years. The fajita haul came to something like $1,251,578…
In the end, there wasn’t much Gilberto could do but plead guilty to the crime. The evidence was impossible to ignore. He was brought before the judge and sentenced for theft by a public servant. But the story didn’t end with his sentencing, not by a long shot.
A Stern Warning
State District Judge J. Manuel Banales was put on the case and had to figure out how best to punish Escamilla for such an unabashed theft of public funds. The judge and the DA decided they wanted Escamilla to serve as a warning to all public servants. To that end, Gilbert Escamilla was sentenced to 50 years in jail…
“We feel a strong message should be sent,” explained Peter Gilman. The DA’s theory is that the type of theft committed by someone like Escamilla harms the people whom he stole from. In this case, the taxpayers who paid his salary. By stealing from them, he broke the trust that the public has for state employees.
In most cases where an employees steals less than $300,000, the sentence would not be so stiff. Gilberto Escamilla stole much more than that, millions, which goes beyond the highest class of felony and warrants such a lengthy sentence: even for a 59-year-old man…
Out of Control
For his part, Gilbert expressed extreme remorse for what he did on the day of his sentencing. “It was selfish. It started small and got bigger and out of control. It got to the point where I couldn’t control it anymore.” Still, it was far too late to apologize.
Eventually, news of the virally famous “Fajita Bandit’s” extreme sentencing broke onto the internet. Fans and admirers couldn’t believe that the District Attorneys and the judge could be so cruel. As a taxpayer, I of course understand where the state was coming from, but the guy is in his early 50’s so it’s essentially life in prison…
Before he was escorted away to begin his sentence, Glbert apologized again and was given the opportunity to say goodbye to his family. There will undoubtedly be appeals, but it is unlikely that he will ever be released.
Adding insult to injury is also the fact that Escamilla and his family now have to pay back the cost of 10 years of felonious fajitas. That’s over a million dollars in chicken, peppers, onions and tortillas. Just goes to show you, don’t steal from your job: and especially don’t steal from Uncle Sam.