The owner of the world’s largest liquor store, Daveco Liquors, must relinquish control of the store to an independent blind trust for two years due to his role in a multi-million dollar racketeering scheme that defrauded the City of Thornton as well as the Colorado Department of Revenue.
The move, which would allow for a third-party trustee to eventually sell the business, is part of an 11-page Department of Revenue’s Liquor and Tobacco Enforcement Division agreement that names Daveco Liquors owner Hani “Henry” Sawaged, of Highlands Ranch, and his four brothers, Issam Sawaged, Ghassan D. Sawaged, Bassam D. Sawaged and Shafeek Sawaged as respondents.
The family members also own Davidsons Liquors at 5555 Boatworks Drive in Highlands Ranch, but that store has not been implicated in the ruling.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records website, the 100,073.1-square-foot Daveco Liquors store at 16434 Washington Street in Thornton opened on Nov. 18, 2006 and still holds the title for the world’s largest “off-license” liquor store.
Denver District Attorney’s Office communications director Lynn Kimbrough said the Department of Revenue investigation into Daveco Liquors began in September 2008, when the city Auditor’s Office discovered inconsistencies in sales tax amounts reported to the city during a routine sales tax audit.
The case was then turned over to the Thornton Police Department and the Colorado Department of Revenue, which found that Sawaged and his brothers logged fictitious merchandise returns and pocketed $5.4 million dollars in cash from Daveco Liquors from at least January 2007 through August 2008.
In all, court documents state the underreporting and underpaying sales tax to the City of Thornton and to the Colorado Department of Revenue resulted in losses exceeding $1 million.
Hani Sawaged pleaded guilty in November 2012 to violating the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act in Denver District Court and was sentenced to two years of supervised probation. Hani Sawaged was also ordered to pay $1.3 million in restitution to the state and the City of Thornton.
In exchange for his guilty plea, the Denver District Attorney's Office and Denver District Court dropped a total of 51 other felony charges against him, including 20 counts of filing false tax returns, three counts of theft exceeding $20,000 and four computer crime charges.
Hani Sawaged's two brothers, Ghassan D. Sawaged and Bassam D. Sawaged, pleaded guilty in August 2012 to one count of felony theft exceeding $15,000 and one felony count of failing to file a tax return. Both men are serving a one-year deferred judgment sentence and have been ordered to jointly pay $200,000 in restitution for their role in the scheme.