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Owner Must Give Up Liquor Store

Business: Masood M. Zaman sold alcoholic beverages to teenagers, including four who died in a drunk driving accident.

August 17, 1996|LISA RICHARDSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — State authorities Thursday ordered the liquor store owner who sold alcohol to a group of Anaheim teens--four of whom subsequently died in a drunk driving accident near Victorville--to relinquish his business.

The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control gave owner Masood M. Zaman six months to transfer his license to a person who meets department approval and is not a relative. In addition, Zaman, who owns Me-N-Paul's, cannot sell liquor for 30 days.

"We felt all along Mr. Zaman was a person we did not want to see continue as a licensee," said Carl Falletta, assistant director of the department's southern bureau. The penalty, stiff by ABC standards, was imposed because the department investigation found that Me-N-Paul's catered to teenagers.

"What our investigation disclosed was there appeared to be a general reputation among the students at Katella High School that this store was an easy place for underage people to buy alcohol," Falletta said.

Zaman's attorney, Stephen W. Solomon, said the penalty resulted from a negotiated settlement. Zaman plans to return to college and already has negotiated the sale of his business and liquor license to an unspecified party, Solomon said.

"He is selling out and being paid for his business, and frankly, had we gone to hearing, we probably would've won," Solomon said.

Solomon said his client maintains the youths involved in the crash showed a fake identification card and later destroyed it.

The only more severe penalty that the department could have imposed would have been to revoke Zaman's license without permitting him to sell it.

The ABC opted against doing so, Falletta said, in order to bring the case to a speedy end. Pursuing the harshest penalty probably would have required another year of work, Falletta said.

"It was our feeling that we wanted to get this resolved, get this gentleman out of business as soon as possible and send a message to other licensees about the price you pay for selling to underage people," Falletta said.

ABC investigators said three teenagers involved in the July 29 desert crash had bought beer at the liquor store.

James Patterson, a Katella High School senior at the time of the accident and the driver of the car, was found to have a blood-alcohol content of .16, twice the legal limit of an adult. Some of the beer Patterson drank, however, came from his parents' refrigerator.

Patterson was the only one of eight teenagers in the Suburban van to escape with minor wounds. Three others suffered serious injuries when Patterson lost control of the vehicle, sending it tumbling off the desert highway.

During the course of the investigation, ABC investigators said they witnessed the sale of alcohol at Me-N-Paul's to another minor less than two weeks after the crash that killed the four teenagers.

Recently, a jury acquitted a Me-N-Paul's store clerk of criminal charges and deadlocked on charges against Zaman.

Patterson, who was 17 at the time of the accident but is now 18, pleaded guilty in March to vehicular manslaughter and felony drunk driving. He is serving a sentence of 120 days in jail and 120 days of alcohol rehabilitation.

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