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Get the latest headlines from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. You can look through all of the agency’s recent news releases on this page.

Members of the media should contact the TABC public information officer to make an inquiry.

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Jan 31, 2023

Statement from TABC on guilty plea from Maria Botello-Morales for sex trafficking charges

BACKGROUND: A 56-year-old Houston woman faces life in prison after she pleaded guilty to multiple sex trafficking charges resulting from a joint investigation by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and members of the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA). U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani announced the guilty plea on Jan. 30, adding that Maria Botello-Morales admitted to recruiting a minor-aged Mexican citizen to work in a bar she owned and to forcing the girl and multiple other victims into sex work on the threat of violence. TABC canceled the liquor permit for the bar, Puerto Alegre, in 2020 following the initial investigation. Botello-Morales remains in custody awaiting sentencing. She faces up to life in prison. The joint investigation was conducted by TABC and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with assistance from the Houston Police Department as part of HTRA. TABC’s investigation remains ongoing. Statement from TABC Chairman Kevin J. Lilly: “This case demonstrates the lengths traffickers will go to in order to recruit and abuse victims, even when those victims are barely more than children. All of us at TABC are incredibly proud of the work of our agents and partners with the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance, and we remain committed to finding and stopping human trafficking no matter where it’s found in Texas.” U.S. Attorney’s Office news release: justice.gov/usao-sdtx/pr/woman-guilty-trafficking-women-cantina-backroom For more about TABC, visit tabc.texas.gov. Trafficking victims are asked to contact TABC’s Victim Services Coordinator at VictimServices@tabc.texas.gov or 713-494-5869. Media contact: Chris Porter TABC Public Information Officer (512) 206-3462 media@tabc.texas.gov

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Jan 26, 2023

Convicted human trafficker receives 35-year sentence following TABC, Bexar County investigation

AUSTIN — A San Antonio man was sentenced by a jury to 35 years in prison on charges of human trafficking and 15 years for aggravated promotion of prostitution following a weeklong trial in the 290th District Court concluding Jan. 17. Eric Laranze Taylor, 28, was arrested and charged with the offenses in 2018, after a joint investigation by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, Bexar County District Attorney’s Office, and Bexar County Sheriff’s Office. “This heavy sentence sends a clear message that trafficking will not be tolerated in our state,” TABC Chairman Kevin Lilly said. “All of us at TABC remain committed to identifying and stopping human trafficking, whether it takes place within a licensed bar or club, or anywhere else. We’re grateful to our partners at the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff’s Office for their outstanding work in bringing Eric Taylor to justice.” The investigation began in the summer of 2018 after investigators received reports that a 16-year-old girl was working as a dancer at multiple sexually oriented businesses in Central Texas, including some licensed to sell alcohol by TABC. Further investigation revealed that she had been recruited over social media by a man, identified as Taylor, to strip in the various men’s clubs and engage in prostitution. Investigators also learned that Taylor provided the child with fraudulent ID documents to facilitate her employment at the clubs. Investigators later found evidence showing Taylor, over several months, had recruited at least three minors and two 18-year-old women to come to San Antonio to live with him and work at multiple strip clubs in San Antonio, Houston, and Travis County. Agents from TABC’s Special Investigations Unit identified and charged several managers at clubs in these locations who hired the minors to work as dancers, resulting in one of the clubs — Blush Men’s Club of San Antonio — having its liquor license canceled by the agency in 2019. Details of the operation were also shared with members of the Texas Legislature, who later went on to pass needed legislation prohibiting sexually oriented businesses from hiring anyone younger than 21 and requiring employers to use E-Verify and other tools to ensure all workers are of legal age. “While this is undoubtedly a victory for public safety as well as all Texans, it does not mean our work is complete,” Lilly said. “Human trafficking has no place in Texas, and as long as criminal elements use TABC-licensed businesses to hide their illegal activity, our investigators will use any and all tools to identify and stop this heinous crime.” For more information about TABC, visit tabc.texas.gov. Media contact: Chris Porter TABC Public Information Officer (512) 206-3462 media@tabc.texas.gov

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Dec 7, 2022

TABC working with retailers to ensure safe alcohol sales this holiday season

AUSTIN — As Texans prepare for a month of holiday celebrations, officials from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission are reminding alcohol retailers to take steps now to prevent risky alcohol sales. TABC agents are planning inspections across the state to ensure retailers are following the law when it comes to preventing sales of alcohol to minors or intoxicated patrons. Texas law prohibits alcohol sale or service to persons under 21 as well as those who are intoxicated. “The holiday season is a time for celebration, but it’s important that Texas alcohol retailers and consumers understand the risks of improper alcohol sales or service,” TABC Executive Director Thomas Graham said. “Now is the best time, before the holiday season kicks into high gear, for business owners and managers to educate their staff on ways to prevent illegal alcohol sales.” Alcohol-related accidents are among the largest drivers of fatalities on Texas roads. According to data from the Texas Department of Transportation, drunk driving was a factor in more than 24% of traffic deaths in 2021. TABC’s website includes educational materials, and videos to help retailers recognize the warning signs of underage or intoxicated customers. Retailers can also sign up for the Retailer Education Awareness Program (REAP), a two-hour continuing education course hosted by TABC that teaches best practices for safe alcohol sales. TABC’s site also includes resources for parents to learn more about the dangers of underage alcohol consumption, including new materials related to Texas laws prohibiting hosting parties for minors where alcohol is served. “Parents are the first line of defense when it comes to preventing underage drinking,” Graham said. “This time of year is an excellent opportunity for parents to discuss the dangers of alcohol with their kids and help them avoid situations that could place lives at risk.” Businesses found in violation of state alcohol laws could face a possible fine or a suspension of their license to sell alcohol. Individuals accused of illegally selling alcohol to minors or intoxicated persons could face misdemeanor charges resulting in a fine or jail time. Media contact: Chris Porter TABC Public Information Officer (512) 206-3462 media@tabc.texas.gov

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Oct 12, 2022

TABC arrests four on third-degree felony theft charges

DALLAS — An investigation by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has landed four men behind bars after they allegedly stole thousands of dollars’ worth of alcoholic beverages from a local distributor. The investigation began in April after TABC agents were contacted by officials from Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits (Southern Glazer’s), a nationwide alcohol distributor with operations in 44 states, including Texas. Southern Glazer’s representatives informed TABC that a local package store was in possession of hundreds of cases of distilled spirits that the company had no record of selling or delivering to the store. Subsequent investigation by TABC uncovered evidence that the store manager had illegally purchased the stolen products from a Southern Glazer’s delivery driver, with two other Southern Glazer’s employees also involved in the offense. In all, TABC agents recovered 230 cases of vodka, 119 cases of cognac and 29 cases of tequila from the package store, all valued at more than $34,000. Southern Glazer’s officials said total long-term losses due to the theft could top more than $278,000. Arrested and charged with felony organized retail theft were Janish Pankaj Vaishnav, 33 Victor Antonio Aguilar-Leon, 34 Carlos Jaime Munoz, 43 Michael Angel Medrano, 22 Each man was booked into the Dallas County Jail and later released on bond. “This case marks outstanding cooperation between TABC agents, Southern Glazer’s and our partners at the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office,” TABC Executive Director Thomas Graham said. “Without their assistance, it’s likely this theft would have continued even longer and could have caused ongoing harm both to the business and their customers across Texas.” “We are very appreciative of the TABC’s quick response to this situation,” added Matt Metz, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of Texas.  “We are also grateful for the TABC agents who helped bring this case to a resolution.” Organized retail theft is a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The criminal cases are pending with the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office. A TABC administrative case also remains open at the package store, Top Liquor Beer and Wine, located at 7606 Greenville Avenue in Dallas. For more information about TABC, visit tabc.texas.gov. Media Contact: Chris Porter TABC Public Information Officer (512) 206-3462 media@tabc.texas.gov

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Sept 28, 2022

TABC arrests Galveston bar employee following crash that killed four

GALVESTON — A Galveston bartender was arrested by agents of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission on Monday after it was alleged he improperly served a person who was later identified by police as a suspect in a deadly August crash that left four people dead. Gil Garcia, 58, was arrested by agents from TABC’s Target Responsibility for Alcohol-Connected Emergencies (TRACE) unit Sept. 26 and charged with selling alcohol to an intoxicated person. He was later booked into the Galveston County Jail. Garcia was identified as an employee of Gloria’s Lounge, 4126 Avenue S in Galveston. According to TABC agents, Garcia was working as a bartender the night of Aug. 6 when a drunken driver collided with a golf cart and killed four passengers. The victims, ages 4, 14, 25 and 49, were members of a family visiting Galveston Island on vacation. “This tragic case illustrates why it’s so important that alcohol retailers take steps to prevent sales to customers who show signs of intoxication,” TABC Executive Director Thomas Graham said. “Businesses can help prevent deadly crashes by following the law and educating employees on how to identify signs of intoxication. Businesses that are found to have contributed to serious injury or loss of life will be held accountable.” Individuals convicted of selling alcohol to an intoxicated person could face a fine of not more than $500 and up to a year in jail. Businesses found in violation could face TABC administrative action, including a fine or a temporary suspension of their alcohol license or permit. The criminal case remains under investigation by the Galveston Police Department and Galveston County District Attorney’s Office. A TABC administrative case against Gloria’s Lounge remains pending. Media Contact: Chris Porter TABC Public Information Officer (512) 206-3462 media@tabc.texas.gov

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Sept 13, 2022

Statewide TABC back-to-school undercover operations catch 131 retailers selling alcohol to minors

AUSTIN — A statewide effort by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to enforce Texas’ underage drinking laws found that 14% of the more than 1,100 retailers visited during the operation sold alcohol to a minor. The finding was part of a statewide push timed to coincide with the start of the college fall semester. During the operation, minor-aged volunteers under the supervision of undercover TABC agents entered licensed retailers where they attempted to buy alcohol. While similar operations regularly occur across the state, the back-to-school operation targeted retailers in cities where colleges or universities are located during the month of August. In all, TABC agents conducted a total of 1,131 underage compliance operations across the state, finding a total of 131 violations, or a compliance rate of 86%. The high compliance rate is a testament to retailers’ efforts to keep employees informed of the law’s requirements, according to TABC Executive Director Thomas Graham. “Our state’s alcohol retailers are the first line of defense when it comes to preventing the illegal sale of alcohol to minors,” Graham said. “While TABC will continue to hold violators accountable, our first goal is to serve as a resource to help educate businesses and ultimately keep them in compliance.” Businesses cited for selling alcohol to a minor could face TABC administrative action including a civil fine and the temporary or permanent suspension of their liquor license. Individual employees who sell alcohol to minors could also face Class A misdemeanor charges. Businesses seeking more information about underage drinking laws can download free educational materials at www.2young2drink.com and tabc.texas.gov/public-safety/retailer-resources/. Business owners can also request free training by TABC auditors on best practices to avoid selling alcohol to minors. Media Contact: Chris Porter TABC Public Information Officer (512) 206-3462 media@tabc.texas.gov

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Aug 23, 2022

TABC cancels liquor permit for Hidalgo Co. bar following human trafficking investigation

AUSTIN — A Hidalgo County bar can no longer sell alcohol after its liquor permit was canceled by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission following a human trafficking investigation. The owner of El Rio Bar, 3609 La Homa Road in Mission, surrendered the business’s liquor license following an Aug. 9 meeting with agents of TABC’s Special Investigations Unit. SIU agents began their probe of the business in 2020 after receiving intelligence of possible organized crime including human trafficking. During the investigation, agents seized narcotics and observed multiple incidents of alleged drink solicitation. Drink solicitation occurs when an alcohol retailer allows an employee to solicit drinks from a customer, typically above the customary price. TABC investigators also referred several potential human trafficking victims to non-governmental organizations for victim services. The business was charged with multiple violations of the Alcoholic Beverage Code, including drink solicitation, prostitution and sales of narcotics by an employee. “By removing this bar’s ability to sell alcohol, TABC agents have cut off a major source of funding for criminal activity in the Mission community,” TABC Executive Director Thomas Graham said. “Not only does this keep the community safer, but it also makes it easier for businesses who follow the law to operate successfully. I’m proud of the hard work of our investigators, and I’d like to thank the members of the Mission community who stepped up and assisted with this case.” The Alcoholic Beverage Code authorizes TABC to cancel the liquor permit of licensed businesses if the operation of that business is deemed a risk to public safety. To learn more about TABC’s mission, visit tabc.texas.gov. Media Contact: Chris Porter TABC Public Information Officer (512) 206-3462 media@tabc.texas.gov

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Aug 22, 2022

TABC appoints Yolanda A. Hall to Deputy Executive Director position

AUSTIN — Longtime public servant Yolanda A. Hall has been appointed to the position of Deputy Executive Director of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, where she’ll oversee day-to-day regulatory and business functions affecting more than 59,000 licensed businesses across the state. Hall, who begins work at TABC Aug. 23, will succeed outgoing Deputy Executive Director and Chief of Staff Matthew Chaplin, who will remain at the agency as Special Counsel to the Executive Director. Hall’s career prior to joining TABC spans multiple decades of high-level budget and business management positions at various state agencies. She began her career in government at the Texas Youth Commission, where she served as a financial analyst and budget manager. After the agency was reorganized into the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, Hall served as finance director overseeing 250 staff members as well as multiple efforts related to agency reorganization and consolidation. She was later appointed as Deputy Budget Director for the Office of the Texas Attorney General. “It’s an honor to join TABC at this incredibly exciting time,” Hall said. “TABC has made tremendous strides over the last few years, and I look forward to working with men and women from across the agency to develop new ideas to better serve the people of Texas.” Hall’s expertise as a budget and finance manager made her an ideal candidate for the job, TABC Executive Director Thomas Graham said. “Yolanda’s experience as a business manager and leader make her the perfect choice for the position of Deputy Executive Director,” he said. “I look forward to working with her as we continue the recent improvements to technology, customer service and overall efficiencies here at TABC.” Established by the Texas Legislature in 1935, TABC regulates all aspects of the alcoholic beverage industry, including the manufacture, distribution and sale of beverages across the state. The agency’s mission includes both regulatory and law enforcement functions, and its more than 600-plus employees work to keep Texas communities safe while helping more than 59,000 licensed businesses operate safely within the guidelines set by the Texas Legislature. For more information about TABC, visit tabc.texas.gov. Media Contact: Chris Porter TABC Public Information Officer (512) 206-3462 media@tabc.texas.gov

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Aug 9, 2022

TABC set to begin annual back-to-school undercover operations

AUSTIN — Agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission are focusing their efforts across the state to ensure alcohol is sold safely and responsibly during the busy back-to-school season. Agents from TABC’s Enforcement Division plan to conduct inspections at businesses located near major Texas universities and will work directly with business owners to scan IDs, such as driver licenses and state ID cards, to identify minors using false identification to buy alcohol. The operation, which begins in mid-August and runs through early September, is part of TABC’s overall mission to keep alcohol out of the hands of anyone younger than 21. During the operation, minors working with TABC will enter businesses to purchase alcohol. If a sale takes place, TABC agents enter the business to notify its managers of the violation. TABC agents will also join security personnel at certain businesses to help screen customers’ IDs as they enter the premises. TABC regularly conducts underage compliance operations in communities across Texas. Over the past 12 months, TABC agents visited hundreds of Texas retailers to curb sales of alcohol to minors. Those operations found that nearly 90% of the retailers visited were fully complying with state alcohol laws. “Our goal with these operations is to collaborate with businesses to ensure they’re equipped to operate safely and successfully, especially as they prepare for a busy back-to-school period,” TABC Executive Director Thomas Graham said. “A primary part of our job at TABC is to help educate business owners about the best ways to ensure their customers, staff and their surrounding communities remain safe.” Selling alcohol to a minor is a class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $4,000 and up to one year in jail. In addition, businesses cited by TABC for selling alcohol to minors might have to pay a fine and have their license to sell alcohol temporarily suspended. Minors who use a false ID to purchase alcohol could face a class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500. Businesses with questions about best practices for safe alcohol sales can contact their local TABC office to request training or educational materials. Results of this year’s back-to-school operations will be announced in September. Media Contact: Chris Porter TABC Public Information Officer (512) 206-3462 media@tabc.texas.gov

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July 29, 2022

Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission issues emergency order suspending El Paso bar

AUSTIN – The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has suspended the liquor permit of an El Paso bar for 90 days following narcotics allegations. Ciro’s Bar & Kitchen East, 1610 N. Zaragoza Road, may not sell or serve alcohol for 90 days according to a TABC emergency order signed by agency leaders Thursday. Section 11.614 of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code gives the agency authority to suspend a business’s permit for up to 90 days if the business's continued operations are deemed a risk to public safety. The business remains the subject of an ongoing TABC investigation that began in September of 2020 in response to reports of alleged narcotics sales. The business has also been the subject of more than 100 calls for service by local law enforcement. “Criminal activity at a licensed business not only endangers the surrounding community, it makes it harder for law-abiding business owners to safely operate and support their families,” TABC Executive Director Thomas Graham said. “TABC will continue to work with our partners in local and state law enforcement to put a stop to violations such as this wherever they are found.” The case remains under investigation by TABC, the El Paso Police Department and the Department of Public Safety. For more information on TABC, visit tabc.texas.gov. Media Contact: Chris Porter TABC Public Information Officer (512) 206-3462 media@tabc.texas.gov

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