FLORENCE CO, SC (WBTW) – Former Florence County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Mark Fuleihan was given a $25,000 bond in his first court appearance.
Fuleihan appeared on Monday before a US magistrate judge on the criminal complaint against him. He is facing federal obstruction charges, according to a criminal complaint filed last week.
Fuleihan was represented in court by Nicole Simpson, who was standing in for Todd Rutherford, his attorney. He had signed a waiver for a preliminary hearing.
Conditions for his bond include: He must not violate the law; must notify of any address or phone number changes; must appear at probation office/pee trial office or court when expected; he cannot leave S.C. without notification; he cannot have a weapon; he cannot drink alcohol excessively; must not be in possession of drugs w/o prescription.
Fuleihan had three illegal gambling machines in his garage in 2015 and also took an illegal gambling machine from the Florence County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) evidence building and delivered it to a co-conspirator, according to the criminal complaint.
Beginning around April 2017, SLED received multiple complaints of illegal gambling machines that were being operated in Florence and Williamsburg counties, according to the complaint.
“A few of the complaints also suggested co-conspirator #1 utilized current Florence County Sheriff Deputies for information to help conceal the illegal machines from SLED investigators,” the complaint states.
In April of 2020, Florence Co. Sheriff Billy Barnes released a video statement following Fuleihan’s bribery arrest in which he said, in part: “This incident involves no one else at this office.”
On January 18, 2019, the complaint states Fuleihan called a senior SLED official to complain that agents didn’t notify him before conducting alcohol inspections in Florence County. Eight days later, SLED conducted another alcohol inspection at a club in Florence and Fuleihan again called SLED to complain about them not giving notice before entering the club.
During an interview on August 15, 2019, a source told law enforcement that some time during 2010 or 2011, Fuleihan approached the source’s sibling and offered to “look after him/her” if he or she paid Fuleihan. Fuleihan asked for $1,200 at first, and then eventually $1,500 per month, according to the criminal complaint.
“At first, Fuleihan said he would ‘look out’ for the source’s sibling then the agreement changed into, if the source didn’t pay, then Fuleihan would make sure his/her machines were seized,” the complaint states.
During that same interview, the complaint states another source said they had the same agreement with Fuleihan. Eventually, all that source’s illegal gambling machines were seized by law enforcement, “but Fuleihan still wanted to be paid.”
The complaint states on several occasions, Fuleihan would seize illegal gambling machines from this source and give them to a co-conspirator.
The source said at one point, Fuleihan seized machines from him/her in Lake City and then a couple weeks later the source saw the same machines in a location in Johnsonville, being operated by the co-conspirator.
Fuleihan was arrested April 2. In a news release sent from the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office to News13 on April 2, Fuleihan was accused of accepting bribes from “associates” of a local gambling organization “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.”
Read the full criminal complaint here.