'Fajitagate' county worker reportedly sold $1.2 million of meat to restaurants

A South Texas county employee arrested after allegedly stealing a large sum of money, not to buy diamonds or drugs, but beef fajita.

BROWNSVILLE - A South Texas county employee was arrested after allegedly stealing a large sum of money, not to buy diamonds or drugs, but beef fajita.

It may sound ridiculous but how can someone get away with over a million dollars’ worth of fajita? Authorities say a juvenile detention center employee was somehow cooking the books for 10 years... Talk about over-done steak!

The KENS 5 Border Team followed the smell of this sizzling story all the way to the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office to ‘meat’ with ‘top chef’ Luis Saenz about “Fajitagate”.

After all, it’s his office that will be doing all the ‘grilling’.

Saenz said that in the course of nine years, Gilberto Escamilla, the head cook of the Cameron County Juvenile Detention Center, used county funds to buy a total of about 180,000 lbs. of the Tex-Mex beef skirt. That’s the total weight of about 90 - 2,000 pounds cows.

With an average price of $7 per pound of fajita, Escamilla is accused of spending,“$1,250,000” Saenz said. “He would ask the driver of the vendor company to call him when they were on their way to deliver the fajita so that he, himself, would take delivery.”
 
The detention center staff blew Escamilla’s cover in early August when he left the building for a doctor’s appointment and another employee answered the vendor’s call to deliver the meat.

The problem is beef fajita is not part of the official lunch menu.

The District Attorney said Escamilla would sell the fajita to restaurants for profit. If so, how could it be overlooked for so long?

“The investigation has also uncovered that the auditor was pretty negligent in her protocols and in checking,” revealed Saenz.

The KENS 5 Border Team paid a visit to the Cameron County’s Auditor’s Office and were soon turned away without comment.

What’s most upsetting to Saenz is that the county is strapped for funds and this kind of news ‘butchers’ the county’s reputation.

“’We’re short $800,000 to run the county.’” Saenz recalled a comment made during the county’s commissioners court. “Well guess what? Guess where the $800,000 is? It just went up in fajitas.”

The District Attorney’s Office isn’t naming the buyers and restaurants the fajita was sold to. Saenz says they don’t believe they will be able to recover any of the meat or the money since it has already been spent. However, the DA isn’t ruling out pursuing restitution. 

© 2017 KENS-TV


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