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May 25, 2018

TABC, Harris County DA Take Action Against Business, Employee Suspected of Overserving Drunk Driver Linked to May 2016 Fatality

AUSTIN – A joint investigation by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the Houston Police Department has resulted in administrative charges against a business suspected of allowing an employee to overserve a person who was later convicted of murder following the May 2016 drunk driving death of a teenage girl returning home from her prom.

El Muelle Seafood Restaurant, 6705 Airline Drive in Houston, has been cited for a TABC administrative violation of Selling/Delivering Alcoholic Beverages to an Intoxicated Person. If upheld, the violation could result in a fine and/or suspension of the restaurant's alcohol permit. An employee, Natalia Ortiz, has been charged with selling alcohol to an intoxicated person, which is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $4,000 and a year in jail.

The investigation began after a May 14, 2016, incident in which a drunk driver, Edin Palacios, was involved in a fatality collision which killed teenager Jocelyn Valero. A joint investigation by Houston police and TABC later found that Palacios had been allowed to consume nearly a dozen beers at the restaurant and was allowed to leave the premises with an alcoholic beverage just prior to the accident.

Palacios was later convicted of murder for his role in Valero's death and was sentenced to 32 years in prison in April. Ortiz, who allegedly served the alcoholic beverages prior to the crash, was arrested by Houston police May 16.

"We want the public to know that tragic deaths such as this can be easily avoided simply by paying attention to how much a person is allowed to drink," TABC Deputy Executive Director for Enforcement Robert Saenz said. "There is absolutely no excuse for allowing a customer to drink a dozen beers before getting behind the wheel. This irresponsible behavior has directly contributed to a young person's death, and TABC will take strong action to set an example for alcohol retailers across the state."

The TABC case against El Muelle has been turned over to the agency's Legal Division for disposition. The business owners will have the option of settling the case with TABC for an agreed-upon penalty or requesting an administrative hearing.

Contact: Chris Porter TABC Public Information Officer (512) 206-3462