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Lessons from a Two-Year Long, $1.2 Million Fajita Heist

March 1, 2021

In April 2018, an employee of the Texas juvenile justice department was sentenced to 50 years in prison for stealing $1.2 million in meat for fajitas over the course of two years. This case is an informative example of inventory theft, particularly for the food service industry.

Diverting Inventory

Gilbert Escamilla, the Texas man who stole more than a million dollars in fajitas, did so by using his position at the juvenile justice department to resell inventory to outside customers. Escamilla used county funds to order large quantities of fajitas, under the guise of serving them in the department’s kitchens. The orders, however, did not reach the kitchen. Instead, they were sold for Escamilla’s personal financial benefit at the county’s expense.

The scheme was unraveled when the driver delivering the 800 pounds of fajitas called the juvenile justice department’s kitchen and a skeptical kitchen employee told the driver they did not serve fajitas. When the driver told the employee he had been delivering fajitas to the juvenile justice department for the past nine years, it became clear that something was amiss.

One day later, Escamilla was arrested and fired from his job, with officers finding stolen fajitas in his home refrigerator. In his testimony, Escamilla described the scheme starting small and spiraling out of control over time.

Discovering Employee Theft

This case, in which a civil servant used county funds to purchase goods and divert them before they could be inventoried, yields several important lessons.

  • In food service, oversight should include cross-referencing purchases with menus.
  • Comprehensive inventory systems should check orders against packing lists and packing lists against goods received. Strong inventory control practices can help detect and prove employee theft.
  • Personnel receiving deliveries should rotate and shipping confirmations should go to the employee who placed the order and the employee who will receive the order.
  • Businesses and organizations suspecting employee theft should consult a forensic accounting firm.

Employee theft can cause extensive harm to an organization, especially when secure inventory procedures are not in place. Relying on expert forensic accountants, such as SDC CPAs, can be crucial to help determine the extent of loss and mitigate future losses.

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