“They say that in the Army, the chow is mighty fine,” goes one verse of a popular military marching song. “A pea rolled off the table, and killed a friend of mine.”
While there have been no reports of killer peas at the West Point Cadet Mess Hall, a housekeeper there, perhaps unaware that an army marches on its stomach, has been arrested on federal charges of larceny and possession of stolen property, accused of stealing a bag of frozen meatballs.
Estelle Casimir, 56, of Newburgh pleaded not guilty March 15 to the misdemeanor charges in U.S. District Court in White Plains.
She also denied the theft when contacted Thursday by The Journal News, saying “I throw them in the garbage” after being asked why she allegedly mooched meatballs.
Casimir has been suspended from her job at Watson Services, the company based in Newburgh that provides food services at the mess hall. She has worked at the company for 28 years.
Authorities say supervisors confronted Casimir about 1 p.m. Jan. 30 because she apparently abandoned her post and was found in an area where she had “no responsibility or assignment of duties,” according to court papers.
An affidavit signed by Joshua Weaver, a court liaison to the Provost Marshal’s Office at West Point, says that when Casimir was asked what was in the grocery bag she was carrying, she replied, “Nothing. It’s garbage.”
Asked why she didn’t throw it in a garbage area near the pantry, Casimir said she was taking it to a bin downstairs instead.
“After some reluctance, the defendant revealed a bag of ‘completely frozen’ meatballs in the defendant’s possession; which coincidentally were on the menu for that evening’s dinner,” the affidavit says.
Casimir said she “found the bag in a trash container and was on her way to dispose of them in another trash container.”
She was subsequently arrested by military police.
Investigators say that Casimir is responsible for cleaning latrines in the mess hall, and that her job does not include the handling or disposing of food.
Court papers do not specify the number of meatballs involved. A company official who declined to give his name said Casimir is suspended, pending the outcome of the case. Casimir said she’s been looking for housecleaning work.
“I just sit in the house,” she said. “I don’t have anything to do.”
Her lawyer, Michael Ferraro, declined to comment Thursday morning.
Casimir is scheduled to return to court April 19. If convicted, she faces a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and one year in a federal stockade on each count.
No word on whether KP duty could be added to the punishment.