A former senior officer in South Carolina is prison-bound for one year and a day for his role in an illegal gambling operation. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
Ex-lieutenant gets one year and a day
A joint federal and state investigation into public corruption and illegal gambling operations in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina has snared a law enforcement figure.
Chief U.S. District Judge R. Bryan Harwell on June 17 sentenced the former Florence County Sheriff’s Office lieutenant, Mark Edward Fuleihan, to 12 months and a day in federal prison.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina took to Twitter on the same day to share news of the verdict on Fuleihan, 49, who previously pleaded guilty to operating an unlawful gambling enterprise:
Fuleihan’s incarceration stems from a request from his own sheriff’s office, which initiated the joint Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) operation “years ago”.
According to an official release from the South Carolina U.S. Attorney’s Office, the joint investigation focused on allegations that a senior law enforcement figure was informing “gambling operators about planned law enforcement activity.”
Fuleihan is one of nine individuals charged in the case. He is also one of the eight defendants to have pleaded guilty.
Defendants ran illegal gambling houses since 2014
According to WBTW News 13, Homeland Security Investigations and South Carolina Law Enforcement Division agents arrested Fuleihan at the Florence County Sheriff’s Office on April 2, 2020. The office fired the lieutenant that same day, bringing to an end a career that started in 1994 and saw him hold roles in SWAT and the department’s special response team.
The official DOJ release said a federal grand jury indicted Fuleihan in October 2020 for his involvement in running an unlawful gambling business, “conspiracy to obstruct enforcement of state criminal law, and obstruction of an official proceeding.”
Deposits of around $1m in cash went into the accounts of at least two members of the gambling ring
Evidence submitted in court on Thursday revealed that the defendants ran illegal gambling houses throughout Florence and Williamsburg since “at least” July 2014. Deposits of around $1m in cash went into the accounts of at least two members of the gambling ring, the DOJ statement read.
Fuleihan’s abuse of power
As a high-ranking officer, Fuleihan used his position to get a heads up on the joint HSI-SLED investigation into the illegal gambling enterprise. He reportedly called state law enforcement officials and “request[ed] to be informed about any upcoming operations related to gambling enforcement.”
Fuleihan would then disseminate the information to his gambling ring cronies, who would use the warning to dodge law enforcement operations and destroy evidence. According to the DOJ release, one ring member described how
Fuleihan would sell previously seized gambling machines back to members of the illegal gambling operation.”
Acting U.S. Attorney M. Rhett DeHart said it was “imperative” to hold law enforcement officers accountable for violating the trust placed in them. Evidence presented in the case illustrated that Fuleihan “was essential to the ability of the gambling operation to operate,” the release added.
A three-year term of court-ordered supervision will follow Fuleihan’s year and a day in federal prison. Sentences for the six other co-defendants comprise terms of probation or house arrest. One co-defendant, Sheryl Kirby, has entered a guilty plea and awaits sentencing. Another, Dale Smith, has received a charge but is yet to enter a plea.
DeHart commended the state and federal team for dismantling “a criminal organization that was bolstered by a crooked cop.”