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50 Year Prison Sentence Given In Fajita Theft Case

A former Cameron County juvenile detention center employee convicted of stealing more than $1.2 million worth of fajitas was sentenced Friday to 50 years in prison. Gilberto Escamilla, 53, pleaded guilty Friday morning to theft by a public servant.

After the sentence, visiting State District Judge J. Manuel Banales dismissed the first count of theft in the indictment as part of a cold plea.

“It was selfish. It started small and got bigger and out of control,” Escamilla said while testifying. “It got to the point where I couldn’t control it anymore.”

The Cameron County District Attorney’s Office Special Investigations Unit arrested Escamilla last year after a driver from Labatt Food Service in Harlingen called the detention center’s kitchen to let employees know their 800-pound delivery of fajitas arrived.

Minor inmates at the Darrel B. Hester Juvenile Detention Center are not served fajitas.

Cameron County Assistant District Attorney Peter Gilman said in all of his years prosecuting theft cases he has never handled one like this, which amounted to around $1,251,578.

Gilman asked Banales to sentence Escamilla to 50 years to send a message that theft by public servants will result in a long prison sentence.

“We feel a strong message should be sent,” Gilman said.

Escamilla was allowed a brief moment to say goodbye to his family before being escorted away to begin his sentence.

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