Guilty Plea Expected in $1.2 Million Fajita Theft

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (CN) — A South Texas man accused of stealing $1.2 million worth of fajitas from his county job is expected to plead guilty rather than face a jury trial this month, according to court records.

Gilberto Escamilla, 53, decided to forgo trial and accept a plea agreement from state prosecutors at a Monday afternoon hearing in Cameron County Court. He is to appear before visiting Judge J. Manuel Banales on Monday, April 23 for a plea and sentencing hearing.

Escamilla, of Brownsville, was fired last August from the Darrel B. Hester Juvenile Detention Center and arrested on theft charges after authorities with a search warrant found packages of the beef fajitas in his refrigerator.

County investigators determined that Escamilla embezzled $1,251,578 worth of meat over nine years, The Brownsville Herald reported. Prosecutors say he commandeered fajita deliveries to his county job at the juvenile justice department, sold them to vendors and kept the money.

A grand jury on Dec. 6 charged Escamilla with two felony counts of theft of property worth more than $200,000. It alleges he ran the scheme from 2008 through 2017.

A recent court filing shows that Escamilla accepted a plea agreement with county prosecutors, but documents do not specify the terms of the deal.

The associate judge hearing the case in Cameron County’s 107th District Court on Monday ordered pre-plea and pre-sentence reports before the next court hearing.

The judge also ordered Escamilla, who has been free on a $30,000 bond, to be placed on electronic monitoring.

Escamilla’s attorney, Gustavo “Gus” Elizondo of Brownsville, did not return a phone call or email seeking comment Monday afternoon.

Theft of property over $200,000 is a first-degree felony, punishable by five to 99 years in prison, and a maximum fine of $10,000.

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