Former Florida restaurant worker Margarito Padilla has been sentenced to seven years in prison after he was caught lacing sauce with a lethal plumber’s lye. The disgruntled employee blamed his work conditions at the Lakeland Hibachi Express franchise for his actions.
Margarito Padilla, 54, pleaded no contest to introducing a chemical into a food or drink. According to The Ledger, Padilla was arrested in June 2017 after the restaurant’s owner, Zhong Kun Jiang, detected a problem with the Yum Yum sauce during a routine inspection.
A police report described how when Jiang used his finger to sample the sauce from a 55-gallon container, he experienced an extremely painful, burning sensation inside his mouth. When he told his employees he was going to call in law enforcement to investigate the matter, Padilla urged Jiang not to call the police.
Jiang became suspicious of Padilla and reviewed surveillance video. In the video, Padilla was seen kneeling near a lye container and then going to the area of the restaurant where the sauce was kept.
The overwhelming video evidence compelled Padilla to confess to the crime. He said he was angry with Jiang over unfair working conditions.
Margarito Padilla Agrees to Plea
The charge of introducing a chemical into a food or drink is a first-degree felony that is punishable by up to 30 years in prison, but Padilla managed to reach a plea agreement with prosecutors.
According to Chief Assistant State Attorney Jacob Orr, the state sentencing guidelines called for a minimum prison term of four years and six months.
Circuit Judge Kevin Abdoney gave Padilla credit for eight months served in Polk County Jail while he was awaiting trial. Padilla will also need to serve eight years of probation after he completes his prison term.
Additionally, as a native of Guadalajara, Mexico, Padilla may be brought to the attention of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement once he is released from prison.