Pleading guilty to putting lye in sauce led to a seven-year prison sentence for a Florida restaurant worker — and possibly more punitive action at the federal level.
Margarito Padilla began serving his sentence Monday, according to Florida Department of Corrections records.
On Tuesday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Tampa office filed a detainer on the 54-year-old Guadalajara, Mexico, native. That means, an ICE spokesperson e-mailed Friday, that ICE wants to know when Padilla finishes doing his time.
Padilla’s employment at a Hibachi Express in Lakeland ended last June, after franchise owner Zhong Jiang thought the Yum-Yum sauce refrigerated in a 55-gallon barrel didn’t look so yummy. He took a taste off a single-dipped finger.
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“The victim’s mouth immediately began burning and he described the pain as a cutting of his tongue and mouth,” the arrest report read.
After asking the employees about the sauce and getting no explanation, Jiang announced he was calling police. Padilla asked Jiang to refrain from calling the cops, heightening Jiang’s suspicion, according to the report.
Via surveillance video review, Jiang saw Padilla kneeling next to where the restaurant kept the Plumbers Choice Lye industrial strength drain cleaner. He noticed a flat pocket when Padilla first kneeled and a bulging pocket when he rose. The pocket deflated to flat after Padilla swung by a sink briefly holding a container of Yum-Yum sauce.
When first interviewed by Lakeland police, Padilla denied anything before cops played the video. He then admitted he had contaminated the sauce because he was angry at Jiang over working conditions.
He said he used only a small amount despite being able to read the warning on the lye bottle, “DANGER POISON HARMFUL OR FATAL IF SWALLOWED CAUSES SEVERE BURNS.”
On the arrest report, though a Lakeland address is listed for Padilla, Lakeland police wrote, “The defendant is considered transient and has a documented history of providing false names/info to law enforcement.”