The $1.2 million fajita heist

What a lovely crime:

Former Cameron County Juvenile Justice Department employee Gilberto Escaramillo missed work one day in August for a medical appointment, the same day a delivery driver called the kitchen about having 800 pounds of fajitas to drop off, the paper said.

A woman informed the driver that the juvenile department didn’t serve the Tex-Mex food – but the driver said he’d been delivering it for nine years, Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz told the Herald.

“When Mr. Escaramilla reports to work the next day, he is confronted with the discussion and he admits he had been stealing fajitas for nine years,” Saenz said.

Escaramilla was fired that month and arrested after investigators obtained a search warrant and found packages of the Tex-Mex food in his refrigerator, Saenz explained.

They also checked invoices and determined he would intercept county-funded food deliveries and deliver them to his own customers, according to the newspaper.

He was determined to have stolen $1,251,578 of fajitas, the report added. Escaramilla was arrested last week on a felony theft charge.

Quite how you push that through the county billing and payment system I’m not sure but fun all the same.

30 thoughts on “The $1.2 million fajita heist”

  1. So Much For Subtlety

    Someone worked for the government and they only missed one day of work in almost a decade?

    I am almost speechless.

    I wonder if they got $1.2 million worth of work out of him?

  2. Billing and payment? When I worked for local government I operated an ordering and payment system, and had the authority to receive orders from customers, issue orders to suppliers, authorise payments and clear the invoices.
    If I had set up a dummy customer I could have stolen thousands. It’s not the billing and payment that’s the issue – it’s the audit.

    Eventually management wised up and ensured separation of orders from payments. Neither I nor my colleagues had done anything wrong.

  3. Another example of how bureaucracy can be abused. Plus they always seem to get caught when they are off for a few days.

    It brought back memory of a story about a guy who headed a support department. Took no leave and everyone was happy with the service. They installed a new system in HR and they found he had not taken leave for years. So they forced him to take a holiday. Then nobody answered the phone in his area and they discovered he had a team of phantom workers. Just him and half a dozen salaries. Why he didn’t just book his holidays is beyond me.

  4. Things can go mad even when there’s no theft involved. I’ve heard of a Cambridge college where the wine steward resigned his fellowship to go off to an academic job in Oz. The new steward found he’d built up an inventory of nearly £100k’s worth of wine. He’d done this in one of the poorest colleges where wine is taken only twice a week.

    Happily, the college managed to arrange trade sales of most of the inventory, and very happily it turned a profit. But how could nobody have noticed? It’s not just that it was recorded in the books, but that the cellar was looking mighty full.

    P.S. Hats off to the architect who ensured that the cellar was big enough to hold the wine that the college would need in a couple of centuries time, when it would presumably be richer and bigger.

  5. Solid Steve 2: Squirrels of The Patriots

    The lead crime scene investigator made a brief statement to the press.

    “I guess you could call that…”

    (puts on sunglasses)

    “…a wrap.”

    YYYEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!

  6. Is there any real chance this crime will result in a court trial and a sentence? Way too many bureaucrats have careers at risk. Those fajitas didn’t unload and transship themselves either.

    Nope, the cover-up is already well on its way.

  7. “Someone worked for the government and they only missed one day of work in almost a decade?”

    Gilberto Escaramillo. Americans hire Latinos, not because they are cheap, but because they are reliable, hard working, and drama free.

    A friend who employs forty told me it would take 120 Americans to do the same job.

    Washington has created an environment hostile to employing Americans. Trump needs to drain the swamp. Kill the alphabet agencies, starting with OSHA and EEOC. The Department of Labor has TWENTY NINE agencies. All waiting to harass employers.

  8. @Lord T

    “It brought back memory of a story about a guy who headed a support department. Took no leave and everyone was happy with the service. They installed a new system in HR and they found he had not taken leave for years. So they forced him to take a holiday. Then nobody answered the phone in his area and they discovered he had a team of phantom workers. Just him and half a dozen salaries. Why he didn’t just book his holidays is beyond me.”

    That guy shouldn’t even get a warning for that- Clearly the chap was worth the money. Everyone happy with the service? Budget approved as value for money every year?

    The question I want to know is who in HR got fired for allowing a system where phantom workers could be produced so easily?

  9. Solid Steve 2: Squirrels of The Patriots

    Fred Z – you’re assuming the fajita conspirators won’t taco bout their accomplices.

  10. @SS2
    Yeah, I’m nacho sure they’ll be able to keep it under their (oversize, culturally appropriative) hats.

  11. Lord T said:
    “… guy who headed a support department … everyone was happy with the service … they forced him to take a holiday. Then nobody answered the phone in his area and they discovered he had a team of phantom workers. Just him and half a dozen salaries.”

    Is Part 2 that they fired him, hired a real half dozen workers, and the service deteriorated?

  12. dearieme,

    “Happily, the college managed to arrange trade sales of most of the inventory, and very happily it turned a profit. But how could nobody have noticed? It’s not just that it was recorded in the books, but that the cellar was looking mighty full.”

    Problems of a “services” function that reports right to the top, rather than each part of the organisation having a gofer who does services things. Result is that there’s no feedback loop in terms of the people who want things, what they got and what they paid for it.

    If someone drinking the wine had it coming out of his budget, he’d connect how much was drunk and how much was bought.

  13. A common scam as old as the hills.

    When the payroll manager ran the scam at the large factory I worked at in Leeds, he at least had a bit more intelligence about it.

    His “employees” were all weekly paid workers who had left the company, but not the payrolls, so he was collecting their payroll envelopes on a weekly basis.

    However, with his take on the scam, when he went on holiday, so did his fake workers, thus ensuring that the whole thing didn’t collapse.

    He was only dismissed when the new head of accounts reconciled payroll with HR, even then it was done on the quiet because they were so embarrassed that he’d got away with it for so long (several years apparently)

  14. I worked at a hotel in Banff national park for a couple of years, and one of the bartenders got fired for skimming. He was very careful to not get greedy. He would pocket cash paid for drinks by customers, but he was always careful to always stay within the “spillage and breakage” allowance. Whenever his till was audited, it always came out within the “spillage and breakage”, so no red flags showed up.

    His undoing was going on vacation. The management noticed a slight but constant uptick in revenue whenever he went on holiday. Eventually they realized that this uptick happened consistently, so they put a hidden camera on the till and caught him.

  15. “Americans hire Latinos… they are reliable, hard working, and drama free.
    Jeez!
    Must be something in the water, Stateside.
    One’s we have here are terminally incompetent, bone idle & full of their own importance.

  16. bis –

    Here in Central Ohio Mexicans are prized as the finest drywallers around. Many landscapers I know hire them over whites and African-Americans… And pay them a premium over white and AA employees. I know one landscaper who had a Mexican working for him full time doing nothing but trying to poach other Mexican landscapers from his competition.

  17. “Quite how you push that through the county billing and payment system I’m not sure”.

    $3,000 a week. A manageable amount every week. He has a problem in that he has loyal customers who he has probably picked up by selling at below market rate. Not so easy to quietly close the business down and move on.

  18. “He was very careful to not get greedy.”

    My first wife, the good one, was a bank branch manager. She told me embezzlement was easy; the problem being it is too easy. She related the story of an employee who devised a scheme that was absolutely fool proof; she got away with $10,000.

    Problem was, it was TOO EASY, and she did it again. BAM! That created a pattern, and they quickly figured out who was doing it. Off to prison she went. Had she stopped at once, she would have never been caught.

  19. His undoing was going on vacation. The management noticed a slight but constant uptick in revenue whenever he went on holiday. Eventually they realized that this uptick happened consistently, so they put a hidden camera on the till and caught him.

    In a lot of countries that would just be factored into operating costs and ignored.

  20. I knew a Belgian who owned several coin operated telescopes in panoramic sites around the Ardennes. He employed people to collect you the cash but always sacked them after 4 weeks on the basis that they were probably skimming the cash.

  21. Another example of how bureaucracy can be abused. Plus they always seem to get caught when they are off for a few days.

    This is why outfits should always ensure that people with access to money or billing take their annual leave. And not just in penny packets.

    They caught a guy in the Customs Department I worked for at the time because they made him take a week off. He, unsurprisingly, tried very hard not to be made to take his outstanding leave (which was then about two month’s worth).

  22. My bartender, Frank, used to take $X per week from me and his other customers, and serve us booze at happy hour prices whenever we came in. Happy hour was 4 to 6 week days.

    If I had a few drinks at 8 PM, well after happy hour, Frank would ring them in during the following day’s happy hour.

    Frank knew he got audited weekly so he made sure that at the end of the week money in matched booze out. Management thought he was a star for selling so much liquor at happy hour. Frank told them he had a way with the customers and charmed them into too much to drink at happy hour.

    Frank kept all the numbers for multiple customers in his head and never did get caught. He eventually quit and left town because he hated Canadian winters.

    Limerick’s Pub, Calgary, Canada and for sure Frank is not his real name.

  23. Fun fact, though possibly apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate;

    The reason the British used to have a preference for two week holidays was fraud detection.

  24. John, Richard,

    They negotiated an early retirement and got back a very small amount of the cash.

    They replaced him with a small team and that failed to deliver what he did and that was wound up a few years later.

  25. Minimum 2 week vacation was a requirement at one bank that I worked at. Reason was fraud prevention. Failure to comply was an immediate internal audit fail, even where the employee had no access to systems or processes that could allow fraud (e.g. M&A advisory work).

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