A 60-year-old woman has agreed to never again work in the alcohol business after admitting she provided a bottle of whiskey to the underage driver who killed a 3-year-old boy and his parents on Halloween 2019.
As part of an agreement with prosecutors, Amor Amacio pleaded guilty Wednesday to misdemeanor charges of furnishing alcohol to a minor and conspiring to obstruct state regulations by using her daughter as a front to illegally obtain a liquor license.
The deal allows Amacio to avoid jail time, but it subjects her to a series of unusually tough consequences for a misdemeanor conviction. In addition to the requirement that she never own or work at another business that sells alcohol, Amacio was sentenced to five years of probation and 90 days of community service. She will also have to serve 364 days on house arrest unless the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department decides she’s ineligible for the program and forces her to serve the time in county jail.
As part of the deal, Amacio’s daughter, Syntyche, also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of conspiracy for helping her mother skirt licensing rules and open Green Diamond Liquor, where 20-year-old Carlo Navarro got the bottle of Jack Daniel’s that helped fuel his drunk driving.
After Amacio slid the bottle to Navarro across the counter at Green Diamond—telling him to pay later at an up-charge because he didn’t have any money—he got behind the wheel of his SUV and barreled into Joseph Awaida, Raihan Dakhil and their 3-year-old son, Omar, as they finished trick-or-treating near Los Cerritos Park.
“Her handing that bottle through that window, that’s what killed my family,” said Vera Awaida, Joseph’s mother, who angrily pointed her finger at Amacio while speaking at the sentencing hearing.
She then turned to Syntyche, who sat, arms crossed, next to her mother at the defense table.
“Your mom—that you allowed to do that—killed my family,” she said. “Hell is not even good enough for you.”
Navarro has already been convicted on three counts of murder, but at Vera Awaida’s invitation, Navarro’s mother also spoke at Wednesday’s hearing.
She spoke directly to Amacio and her daughter. “I’m not sure how you’re able to sleep at night, but this is something that will haunt him the rest of his life,” Theresa Navarro said of her son.
A week earlier, the two mothers had sat on opposite sides of a different courtroom as jurors convicted Carlo Navarro, but on Wednesday, Vera Awaida said they were united because “we’re both mothers of children whose lives have been ruined” by Amacio.
For years before the Halloween tragedy, Amacio had been allowed to flout liquor laws and continue selling alcohol despite repeated scrutiny from state regulators at the two liquor stores she ran in North Long Beach.
Before Green Diamond, she operated Eddie’s Market & Liquor where she developed a reputation for serving minors. State regulators fined her for the bad behavior but let her stay until 2018 when she admitted to massive food stamps fraud that federal officials estimated at up to $2 million.
After that conviction, Amacio was placed on five years of probation and California’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control revoked her liquor license, but that didn’t end her involvement in the booze business. She soon opened Green Dimond under her daughter’s name.
It was there, two blocks away from Eddie’s old storefront, where Amacio handed Navarro the bottle of Jack Daniel’s on Halloween 2019. He later told authorities he’d illegally gotten liquor from her too many times to remember.
When investigators from the ABC visited Green Diamond after the crash, Syntyche admitted her mother was the true owner. Despite this, the ABC said they found “no evidence” that Amacio was using her daughter as a front to skirt their licensing regulations.
That conclusion drew frustration from local law enforcement and the Awaida family, who were disappointed that the only penalty the ABC brought against Green Diamond was a 25-day suspension of its liquor license. (The ABC characterized this as a harsh discipline, saying the standard consequence for selling to a minor was a 15-day suspension.)
After a Long Beach Post article detailed Amacio’s history of liquor law violations and the questionable ownership structure of Green Diamond, the Long Beach City Prosecutor’s office sought a way to bar Amacio and her daughter from the alcohol business, a task that would normally be left to the ABC.
Prosecutors ultimately settled on the plan of using a plea agreement with the ban as one of its conditions, but enforcing that ban may be out of their hands.
After their probation ends, it will be up to the ABC to prevent Amacio and her daughter from working with alcohol.
When asked if ABC would enforce this prohibition, ABC spokesman John Carr said his agency “respects court orders and takes them into consideration when reviewing applications.” But, “It is difficult to answer your question about this specific case until a court order is issued.”
As part of the plea agreement, 28-year-old Syntyche also agreed to the lifetime ban on working in the alcohol business. She was sentenced to one year of probation and 40 hours of community service for her part in the crime.
They were both ordered to make a $1,000 donation to the charity where Raihan and Joseph volunteered with abused children, and warned they could face jail time if they violated their probation, didn’t complete their community service or failed to show proof they’re no longer running Green Diamond.
Attorneys on the case said Amacio and her daughter have already divested from the business.
The store’s license was transferred to a new company, Westland Liquor Inc., in April. The company’s owner, who asked not to be named to avoid being associated with the Halloween tragedy, said he and his wife have no prior connection with the Amacio family and learned details of the accusations against them only after buying the license. He declined to say how much they paid for it.
He said they hope to run the store, which they’ve reopened under the new name Southwest Liquor, in a much more responsible manner.