Former FCSO Lt. Mark Fuleihan now faces federal obstruction charges

Pee Dee Crime

FLORENCE COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Former Florence County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Mark Fuleihan is now facing federal obstruction charges, according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday.

The criminal complaint shows Fuleihan is facing obstruction of state or local law enforcement and obstruction of an official proceeding charges.

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.”

Fuleihan’s initial court appearance is scheduled for July 13 at 2:30 p.m. in Florence.

Read the full criminal complaint below:

Fuleihan’s background

Since the AG’s Office announced Fuleihan’s arrest, News13 learned that the former Lieutenant was fired on April 2, the same day as his arrest. The FCSO tells us he was originally hired by the agency on February 28, 1994.

Photo of Fuleihan from 1994 jail training documents (Courtesy: SC Criminal Justice Academy)

News13 also obtained Fuleihan’s training history report from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Documents within that report suggest Fuleihan worked in the Florence County Jail from February 28, 1994 to August 4, 1995.

While working at the jail in May 1994, Fuleihan scored an 84 out of a possible 100 in the academic portion of his week one basic jail training, according to training history documents. Fuleihan scored below the class average, of 90. The training involved some of the following topics: “Special Problem Inmates”, “Emergency Procedures” and “Search & Security Inspections”. During a similar training in week two, Fuleihan scored a 92 out of 100, with the class average being 94. Topics included “Inmate Control”, “Stress Management” and “Disciplinary Procedures”.

Fuleihan spoke to News13 on June 7, 2018 about how the FCSO’s Special Response Team ran its weekly training

A background check found “no identifiable record”, according to a training document dated March 3, 1994.

Fuleihan poses for a photo at a June 16, 2016 banquet for the Florence Breakfast Optimist Club

Since August 4, 1995, Fuleihan has worked as a sheriff’s deputy, including in SWAT and with the department’s Special Response Team. His extensive training includes courses on topics like “Vulnerable Adult Training”, “Mental Illness: An Officer’s Response”, “SLED Moving Vehicles & Deadly Force”, “De-Escalation: Surviving Verbal Conflict”, “Criminal Domestic Violence” and “Meth & Drug Endangered Children”. His training record did not show any violations or disciplinary reports.

A previous News13 story indicates that Fuleihan was a supervisor with the FCSO since at least 2016.

If Fuleihan is convicted of the ethics bribery charge, a felony, he could spend up to ten years in prison, according to the AG’s Office. If convicted, he would also no longer be allowed to serve as a “public official” or “public member”.

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