Sheriff: Informant provided info that led to firing of 2 Greenville deputies

07/26/2014 12:00 AM

07/25/2014 7:42 PM

A man who ran illegal gambling operations for more than two decades in Greenville County provided information to the FBI that led to the firings of two Greenville County deputies, one of whom was the third-ranking officer in the department.

Greenville County Sheriff Steve Loftis identified the two deputies as Sgt. David Hayes and Maj. Shea Smith. Hayes was fired earlier this year, and Smith was fired last week, Loftis said.

Hayes declined to comment on the advice of his attorney. Smith couldn’t be reached for comment.

Documents in U.S. District Court show Izzat Khalil, 54, was arrested last November on a federal charge of running an illegal gambling business. He pleaded guilty to the charge in February and was sentenced to probation.

In a motion asking that his sentence be reduced, Khalil claims that in addition to the information that led to a criminal investigation of the deputies, he also provided leads about other gambling operations, drug deals, violent crimes and terrorism that didn’t involve the Sheriff’s Office.

Khalil is facing 27 to 33 months in prison and has asked the court to put him on probation or to be given time served for pleading guilty.

In the motion filed July 22, Khalil alleges the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office knew of his operation and allowed it to continue. He claims a deputy, whom he doesn’t name, told him to move the business “off the beaten path.”

“It was known by law enforcement that if Mr. Khalil was given a Uniform Traffic Citation for Adventuring in Lotteries that he would pay the fine and be back in business within a day or two. Usually when Mr. Khalil was arrested, the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office seized proceeds from the business, which was forfeited to the county,” the motion states.

Loftis denied that his officers allowed the illegal gambling to continue.

“These are the self-serving, unsubstantiated and unproven remarks of a convicted felon who is desperately trying to avoid a long prison sentence,” Loftis said.

The Sheriff’s Office has brought 26 charges related to gambling or illegal lotteries against Khalil since 1986, Loftis said. Many of them have been dismissed, according to records.

“Every time we’d arrest him he’d pay a minimum fine and he’d be back in business the next day,” Loftis said.

About a year ago, Loftis turned over the information his office had collected on Khalil to the FBI, which would result in stiffer penalties if convicted, the sheriff said.

Khalil’s motion also says that since his arrest he has met eight to 10 times with law enforcement agencies including the FBI, Homeland Security, Greenville County Sheriff’s Office and the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office to provide information about others.

Smith, 44, a former spokesman for the agency, was fired for assisting criminals, not keeping Sheriff’s Office business secure, conduct unbecoming an officer and having conversations with known criminals, according to a personnel order terminating him.

He and Hayes had both been with the department for more than 20 years.

The investigation has now become a criminal investigation, according to a statement released last week by the Sheriff’s Office. The specific allegations against the two deputies haven’t been made public.

Thirteenth Circuit Solicitor Walt Wilkins said he couldn’t comment because the investigation is ongoing.

Khalil was released on $25,000 bond shortly after he was arrested. His probation was revoked in May after he was accused by his probation officer of continuing to operate a gambling business. He has denied the charge, and has been held ever since at the Spartanburg County Jail, which holds federal prisoners. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Spartanburg.

The motion seeking a lesser sentence says Khalil was born in Jordan and came to the United States in 1979. He became a naturalized citizen in 1983. He has been married for 34 years, has two grown children and a teenager and lives in Travelers Rest.

The motion says Khalil had been involved in the gambling business — lottery tickets and ball ticket pull tabs — since 1990. He also had video poker games when they were legal, the motion states.

“He has pled guilty to numerous charges of adventuring in lotteries and paid a fine on each,” according to the motion. “Each charge carried a maximum fine of $100. He does not have any other criminal record.”

Khalil also owns an auto auction company and is a wholesale car dealer, businesses he’s attempting to run while incarcerated, the motion says. He provides support for his wife, mother-in-law, who lives next door, and father who lives in Jordan and has cancer.

Khalil’s lawyer, Larry Crane, couldn’t be reached for comment.

The federal government estimates Khalil made $1.5 million from illegal gambling, according to the court record. The government has seized nearly $200,000 in cash and a Smith and Wesson semi-automatic handgun.

Initially, the government sought to obtain five pieces of property, including his home, but as part of an agreement to plead guilty, the government agreed not to go after his property, Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Watkins said.

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