Tex-Mex theft: $1.2M in stolen fajitas prompts employee’s arrest at Texas juvie center

This ranks up there with the great maple syrup theft in Canada a couple of years ago.

Josh Hafner of USA Today reports a Texas juvenile center employee confessed to stealing shipments of fajitas over nine years, a district attorney said, a theft totaling $1.2 million.

The Tex-Mex mystery unfolded on Aug. 7 when an 800-pound delivery of fajitas arrived at the Cameron County Juvenile Justice Department in San Benito, The Brownsville Herald reported, about 10 miles north of the Mexico border.

There was only one problem, a kitchen staffer told the delivery driver: The department didn’t serve fajitas. That’s when the driver said he had been delivering fajitas to the center for nearly a decade, District Attorney Luis V. Saenz said.

“If it wasn’t so serious, you’d think it was a Saturday Night Live skit,” Saenz told the Herald. “But this is the real thing.”

The kitchen staffer told her supervisor about the call, and the missing piece fell into place: Gilberto Escamilla, a department employee, had taken that day off. When confronted at work the next day, he confessed to stealing fajitas for the past nine years, Saenz told the newspaper.

Officers later searching his home found fajitas in the refrigerator. Escamilla made bail following his firing and arrest, but a trail of invoices and vouchers led investigators to the shockingly spicy conclusion: Escamilla’s fajitas fraud totaled $1,251,578, per the Herald.

“He would literally, on the day he ordered them, deliver them to customers he had already lined up,” Saenz said.

Organic BS: Hucksters make a buck, plead guilty to fraud in Canada

Chapman and I toured southern Ontario tomato farms and processors 16 years ago, and shot youtube video, but youtube didn’t exist, so we didn’t know what to do with the video.

Here it is.

Trevor Wilhelm of the Windsor Star reports that bankrupt Maidstone tomato processing company received a controversial $3- million provincial grant is expected to plead guilty next month to purposely mislabelling products as organic.

An order signed by a Toronto judge states that William (Bill) Thomas, owner of Thomas Canning, has agreed to plead guilty on behalf of the company and pay a $40,000 fine. In exchange, several other charges against the company and Thomas himself will be withdrawn.

The judge’s order states the guilty plea must be entered no later than Nov. 23. Thomas’s next scheduled court appearance in Windsor is Nov. 6.

The guilty plea and $40,000 fine is part of a joint submission from prosecution and defence lawyers. But the judge’s order states the court is not bound by that submission.

According to documents previously filed in Ontario court by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Thomas and his company are accused of 11 offences in contravention of the Food and Drug Act, the Consumer Packaging Act and the Canada Agricultural Products Act.

Thomas Canning and its owner are accused of labelling regular canned tomato products as organic.

The company and Thomas were also charged with falsifying the country of origin on their products between September 2013 and July 2015, passing off American tomato products as Canadian with labels that read “Product of Canada.”

Thomas was also charged personally with lying to a federal food inspector on Jan. 8, 2015, about canned tomato paste sold under the brand Tree of Life.

The company’s website, which is no longer accessible, previously stated that Thomas Canning charged a 20 per cent premium for organic products.

Thomas Canning received a $3-million grant from the province in 2014 to build a new fruit and vegetable processing facility. The plant was never built.

Farmers planted additional crops, signing contracts with Thomas Canning to supply tomatoes to the new plant. Those additional tomatoes rotted in the field.

Before the company went into receivership earlier this year, nine farmers were suing Thomas Canning for $2.85 million for reneging on contracts to grow tomatoes in 2016.

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has said it’s fine with the way Thomas Canning used the money. The ministry said the money was used to create and retain jobs, rebrand its Utopia products and open up markets in Nigeria and China.

After receiving the $3 million, Thomas Canning went bankrupt. That process is still winding its way through court.

‘Pure greed’ UK couple who faked holiday sickness are jailed

A couple have been jailed for making fake holiday sickness claims in a landmark case.

Liverpool Crown Court heard Deborah Briton, 53, and partner Paul Roberts, 43, tried to claim compensation by stating they and their two children had fallen ill on holidays to Majorca in 2015 and 2016.

But the couple’s social media showed posts where they boasted of holidays full of “sun, laughter and fun”, reports the Daily Mail.

Briton sobbed as she was sentenced to nine months in prison after admitting four counts of fraud in the private prosecution, brought by holiday company Thomas Cook.

Roberts, who was sentenced to 15 months after admitting the same offences, cried and shook in the court throughout the hearing.

The court heard the couple, from Wallasey, Wirral, tried to claim nearly £20,000 ($33,800) for the fake gastric illnesses and would have also cost the holiday firm a further £28,000 ($47,323) in legal expenses had their claims been successful.

Sentencing, Judge David Aubrey QC said their claims had been a “complete and utter sham”.

He said the claims, made in August last year, must have required planning and premeditation.

He said: “Why? Pure greed. Seeking to get something for nothing.”

European Union takes a stand against food fraud

Anadolu Agency reports

The European Union said it will take more measures against food fraud cases after a contaminated eggs scandal touched 24 out of 28 member states this year.
“Misdoings and fraudulent practices of a few should not have such devastating effects,” EU Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said in a statement after the high-level meeting in Brussels.
The commissioner said the bloc will improve “risk communication” between the member states to make sure the general public learns about such incidents in a “more coherent and swift way.”
He warned that a lack of transparency could “eventually lead to destruction of trust in particular [of the] food industry,” Andriukaitis added. The European Commission is planning to present more proposals to an upcoming the Council of the EU meeting on Oct. 9-10. The measures include creating common risk assessment on incidents, stretching the rapid alert system for food and holding training and regular crisis exercises. The origin of the egg contamination was detected in poultry in the Netherlands and has led to the closure of 200 farms in the country. Since July 20, millions of eggs have been destroyed or taken off supermarket shelves across Europe amid fears they had been contaminated with fipronil, used in insecticide

Food fraud in Canada

I love Canada except for the ridiculous sub-zero temperatures we get here in the winter-Powell and Chapman can attest to this having lived in Ontario.
Canada is not immune to food fraud and with increase testing of food products, we’ll see just how bad it is. A study conducted by Sylvain Charlebois, the dean of the Faculty of Management and professor in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University indicates that more than 40 per cent of Canadians believe to have been victims of food fraud already.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed. – Mahatma Gandhi

Liam Casey of the Globe and Mail writes

A federally funded study has found that 20 per cent of sausages sampled from grocery stores across Canada contained meats that weren’t on the label.
The study, published this week in the journal Food Control, was conducted by researchers at the University of Guelph and commissioned by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
It examined 100 sausages that were labelled as containing just one ingredient – beef, pork, chicken or turkey.
“About one in five of the sausages we tested had some off-label ingredients in them, which is alarming,” said Robert Hanner, lead author of the study and an associate professor with the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario at the University of Guelph.
The CFIA reached out to Prof. Hanner for the study after the European horse meat scandal in 2013, where food labelled as beef was found to have horse meat – in some cases beef was completely substituted by horse meat.
The goal of the study, the federal food regulator said, was to examine scientific methods used by Prof. Hanner to see if the CFIA could use them in its regulatory practices. The scientific tools showed promising results, the CFIA said.
Seven of 27 beef sausages examined in the study contained pork. One of 38 supposedly pure pork sausages contained horse meat. Of 20 chicken sausages, four also contained turkey and one also had beef. Five of the 15 turkey sausages studied contained no turkey at all – they were entirely chicken.
None of the sausages examined contained more than one other type of meat in addition to the meat the sausage was meant to contain, Prof. Hanner said, noting, however that researchers were only testing for turkey, chicken, pork, beef and horse.
“The good news is that typically beef sausages predominantly contain beef, but some of them also contain pork, so for our kosher and halal consumers, that is a bit disconcerting,” Prof. Hanner said.

The undeclared meats found weren’t trace levels, Prof. Hanner noted.
“The levels we’re seeing aren’t because the blades on a grinder aren’t perfectly clean,” he said, adding that many of the undeclared ingredients found in the sausages were recorded in the range of 1 per cent to 5 per cent.
More than one per cent of undeclared ingredients indicates a breakdown in food processing or intentional food fraud, Prof. Hanner explained.