FLORENCE, S.C. — A former Florence County sheriff's deputy has been arrested on a bribery charge.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson announced Thursday that Lt. Mark Edward Fuleihan, 48, was arrested at the sheriff's office by agents from the State Law Enforcement Division and the Homeland Security Investigations division and charged with violating the state's ethics act.

If convicted of the crime, Fuleihan would be guilty of a felony and face up to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. He would also be permanently barred from holding public office in the state.

The investigation into Fuleihan began with a request from the Florence County Sheriff’s Office after it received information about Fuleihan’s alleged involvement in illegal gaming.

Florence County Sheriff William C. "Billy" Barnes said the information was provided by Chief Deputy Glen Kirby to the State Law Enforcement Division to begin the investigation. Barnes added that the investigation had been ongoing since February 2018.

"I told you last April when I took over that I had inherited problems," Barnes said. "This was one of the problems that I knew I had."

Barnes also emphasized that Fuleihan was the only member of the sheriff's office involved. He added that when a member of the law enforcement family steps across the line and starts breaking the law, the officer is no longer a member of the family. Barnes finished by saying that he was going to continue to work to restore the public's confidence in the sheriff's office and the sheriff himself.

The joint federal and state case was conducted with a partnership of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, Homeland Security Investigations, the South Carolina Attorney General’s State Grand Jury Division, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina and the Florence County Sheriff’s Office.

The warrant indicates that between April 2017 and March 2020 State Law Enforcement Division special agents investigated public corruption related to an illegal gaming operation in Florence County. That investigation identified multiple people, including Fuleihan.

"Statements by multiple sources of information revealed first-hand knowledge of Fuleihan accepting monetary bribes between 2013 and 2017 from associates of the gambling organization," the warrant continues. "SOI [The sources] confirmed the 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."

The agents from the State Law Enforcement Division also used cellular telephone toll reports during the investigation to confirm the Fuleihan's continued communication with members of the organization.

Florence County interim Sheriff William Barnes dismissed Fuleihan from his position prior to his arrest. Fuleihan had served as a Florence County sheriff’s deputy since 1995.

Fuleihan is the second member of the Florence County Sheriff's Office to be arrested by agents from the State Law Enforcement Division in the past few years.

William Kenney Boone, Florence County’s sheriff since 2004 and an employee of the sheriff’s office since 1987, was arrested by state law enforcement agents and suspended on April 24, 2019. Boone pleaded guilty in January to charges of embezzlement and misconduct in office.

Barnes did not mention Boone in the statement released on YouTube Thursday afternoon but did say that the former sheriff was "performing his duties" in February of 2018 when Kirby requested the state law enforcement division to investigate the matter.

Boone was sentenced to five years' probation and ordered to pay approximately $17,000 in restitution by Judge William A. McKinnon in January. He was later sentenced to up to a year in jail after McKinnon found Boone had violated his probation by, in the presence of his wife, hitting a cat with a baseball bat, inflicting unnecessary pain or suffering on the animal.

He was previously jailed for violating his bond on the charges related to the incident involving his wife. Boone reportedly visited a Florence-area gym that his wife also goes to.

Government and Politics Reporter

I cover the city of Florence, the county of Florence, the state legislative delegation of Florence County and surrounding areas, and the federal delegation representing the Pee Dee for the Morning News.

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