Fire Weather Watch issued March 31 at 3:14AM MDT expiring April 1 at 7:00PM MDT in effect for: Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Crowley, El Paso, Huerfano, Las Animas, Otero, Pueblo, Rio Grande, Saguache
This case involves allegations from the state Liquor Licensing Authority through the Liquor Enforcement Division (collectively the Division) against two of the largest retail liquor stores in Colorado and their separate, respective owners, the brothers Henry and Issam Sawaged. Three other brothers, Sean, Sam, and Gus Sawaged are also named parties. The Sawaged brothers are all U.S. citizens and orthodox Christians. They originally came from Jordan fleeing religious persecution. They have worked extremely hard in this country, and they are a close knit family. In many ways they epitomize the finest aspects of the American Dream. The allegations by the Liquor Division revolve around two areas: cash payments to suppliers and interests in multiple licenses. These charges do not have merit and are plainly off base. With respect to charges involving multiple licenses, the Division is charging these liquor establishments with violating several vague and unclear laws. These laws are so vague that the Division was advised by its own attorney 16 years ago in 1993 that its regulations fall short of clarifying forbidden interests in licenses and that the Division could effectuate its concerns through the state rulemaking process. Over the last 16 years the Division has chosen not to do that. The Division has enacted no rules, and thereby ignored the advice of its own assigned attorney from the attorney generals office. Now, the Division is using these same vague laws in the Colorado Liquor Code, never clarified by rules or regulations, to prosecute the Sawageds. With respect to charges involving cash payments, the Division is charging violations of federal statutes that are just simply not violations. Because these allegations concern federal law, not the Colorado Liquor Code, we believe the state Liquor Enforcement Division misconstrues the requirements of these laws. We have told the Division that they are off base in pursuing these charges. But they have ignored our protests, and the Division continues to take the path of prosecution. At the appropriate time, and in the appropriate manner, the Sawageds will answer the charges against them, and they are prepared to take this matter all the way through the courts if necessary. As American citizens, the Sawageds believe that they entitled to the benefit of fundamental fairness. And it is fundamentally unfair for the Liquor Enforcement Division to continue pursuing this course of action against the Sawageds.