A former Florence county, South Carolina sheriff’s lieutenant is scheduled to be sentenced this week in federal court for his role in various illegal gambling operations conducted in the Pee Dee region of the Palmetto State.
Mark Edward Fuleihan, 49, of Florence, S.C. is scheduled to appear before chief U.S. district court judge R. Bryan Harwell at 1:30 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, June 16, 2021 at the McMillan federal building in Florence.
As my news outlet exclusively reported back last April, Fuleihan was previously arrested by agents of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for allegedly accepting “monetary bribes between 2013 and 2017 from associates of the gambling organization.”
Last May, the native of Virginia Beach was indicted by a statewide grand jury on one count of misconduct in office and one count of receiving something of value to influence an official action.
“Bribes were paid to Fuleihan in exchange for information/ services used to facilitate the operation of the illegal gambling organization and to avoid detection from other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies,” prosecutors in the office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson alleged.
Last June, federal prosecutors charged Fuleihan with obstruction – alleging that his organization had been running “underground” gambling houses throughout Florence and Williamsburg counties since “at least” 2016.
Two months ago, Fuleihan agreed to plead guilty to one count of operating an illegal gambling business.
In his plea agreement (.pdf), Fuleihan acknowledged that he and his co-conspirators “did conduct, finance, manage, supervise, direct and own an illegal gambling business.”
That charge carries with it a possible five-year prison sentence, but Fuleihan and his attorney – S.C. House minority leader Todd Rutherford – agreed with the feds that “the appropriate disposition of this case (irrespective of fines and/ or forfeitures) is a sentence of twelve months and one day of incarceration, followed by the appropriate statutory term of supervised release.”
Should Fuleihan fail to comply with the terms of his plea agreement, however, the government could “seek the maximum sentence allowed by law.”
And unlike sentences doled out by state judges, there is no parole in the federal system.
As I have often noted, longtime readers of this news outlet are well aware of my libertarian-leaning views when it comes to the issue of gambling. In fact, I have actively promoted its legalization in certain cases. If people want to throw their money away on games of chance, I believe they should be allowed to do so.
Whatever I think of gambling laws, though, I cannot abide law enforcement officers taking bribes to protect one operation while they enforce prohibitions against another.
That is definitionally unfair … not unlike picking winners and losers in the “economic development” arena.
Anyway, Fuleihan was one of several people charged in connection with this gambling ring. As of this writing, all but one of the defendants has pleaded guilty and all but two have been sentenced. These other defendants have all received probation or house arrest for their roles in the criminal enterprise.
As mentioned, this was a joint operation between the U.S. attorney’s office, the office of the attorney general, DHS and SLED.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina and before that he was a bass player and a dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has LOTS of hats (including the above-pictured Brooklyn Dodgers’ lid commemorating the 1947 major league baseball debut of Jackie Robinson).
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