Trial set in fajita case: Ex-county employee pleads not guilty to stealing meat

BROWNSVILLE — A former Cameron County employee accused of stealing $1.2 million worth of fajita meat is scheduled for trial in March.

A Cameron County grand jury indicted Gilberto Escamilla, 53, on two counts of theft of property worth more than $200,000 on Dec. 6.

Escamilla pleaded not guilty to the charges Jan. 8, court documents show.

The Cameron County District Attorney’s Office Special Investigations Unit arrested Escamilla, a former employee at the Darrel B. Hester Juvenile Detention Center, last year after a driver from Labatt Food Service in Harlingen called the detention center’s kitchen to let the workers know their 800-pound delivery of fajitas had arrived.

The detention center does not serve fajitas.

When officers searched Escamilla’s house, they found packets of fajitas in his refrigerator.

After digging through documents from the food vendor, the County Auditor’s Office alleged that Escamilla stole $1,251,578 worth of fajitas during a span of nine years, authorities have said.

One count of the indictment charges Escamilla with stealing the meat from Dec. 6, 2012, to Aug. 3, 2017, and the other count charges him with unlawfully obtaining fajitas from between Dec. 6, 2008, and Aug. 3, 2017.

The case landed in the 107th state District Court, and presiding Judge Benjamin Euresti Jr. has recused himself. Missy Medary, presiding judge of the 5th Administrative Judicial Region, assigned Judge J. Manuel Banales to the case, court documents show.

Euresti recused himself because he is one of the judges that oversees the department that is the alleged victim in the case, he states in the order of voluntary recusal.

The trial is scheduled to begin March 5.

Escamilla has bailed out on a $30,000 bond. Originally, the state requested a $250,000 bond, but the court felt $30,000 was appropriate.