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Arlington clerk accused of selling alcohol to minors before fatal wreck

A clerk at an Arlington convenience store was arrested Wednesday night after two underage teens told state investigators that he sold them alcoholic beverages, including the “energy drink” Four Loko, hours before they were in a wreck in which a 14-year-old girl was killed.

Satish Phuyal, 22, of Arlington, was arrested about 9:30 p.m. while he was working at 6 Pack XPress in the 1900 block of East Park Row, the store where the teens said they bought alcohol, Capt. Charlie Cloud of the North Texas region of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commision said.

Phuyal was arrested on a warrant accusing him of selling alcoholic beverages to a minor, a Class A misdemeanor, Cloud said. Valeria Rodriguez was with her 14-year-old boyfriend and a 16-year-old friend in the boyfriend’s family’s Chevrolet TrailBlazer when the SUV crashed into a guardrail along Interstate 35W in Denton near the merger with Interstate 35E. The SUV rolled and Rodriguez was thrown out. She was pronounced dead at the scene at 3:20 a.m., the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office reported.

The 16-year-old told police that the three teens had consumed five cans of Four Loko and a 12-pack of beer, a police spokesman said.

Police were awaiting results of blood tests before pursuing charges, but the boyfriend, who was driving, could face a juvenile charge of intoxication manslaughter, the spokesman said.

Cloud said the two survivors of the crash told investigators that the first time they tried to buy the alcoholic beverages, the clerk told them to come back later. They returned, and he sold it to them. The teens identified Phuyal from a photo lineup, Cloud said.

The arrest was made the same day that government regulators warned four makers of energy drinks that adding caffeine to malt alcoholic beverages is unsafe. The warning was considered a step toward banning the drinks.

One of the companies, Chicago-based Phusian Projects, which makes Four Loko, already has decided to reformulate its drinks, an official said.

Carolyn Beck, a TABC spokeswoman, said that Four Loko had been “on our radar” for some time, even before the fatal wreck on Sunday.

Rodriguez’s death was the first she knew of in Texas that was associated with Four Loko, which she said has the reputation of being “blackout in a can.”

A person who is convicted of selling alcohol to a minor faces a possible jail term of up to one year and a $4,000 fine.

This report includes material from the Chicago Tribune.

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