Sheriff Loftis speaks out on firings, gambling suspect sentenced - FOX Carolina 21

Sheriff Loftis speaks out on firings after gambling suspect sentenced

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Izzat Khalil (Source: Spartanburg County Detention Center) Izzat Khalil (Source: Spartanburg County Detention Center)
Izzat Khalil outside of federal court. (July 29, 2014/FOX Carolina) Izzat Khalil outside of federal court. (July 29, 2014/FOX Carolina)

A man who pleaded guilty to violating the state's gambling laws was sentenced in federal court on Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles announced.

Izzat Khalil, 54, was sentenced to a year and a day with credit for time served. Khalil's attorney Larry Crane said his client cooperated with federal agents to get a reduced sentence.

Nettles said Khalil conducted the illegal gambling operation out of a business at 6129 Augusta Rd. in Greenville. According to Nettles, law enforcement used a number of confidential informants who were wired with audio and video devices to make purchases from the operation.

Along with the year and a day sentence, Khalil is also forfeiting $194,522 in gambling proceeds to the United States.

Khalil returned to federal court on Wednesday for a bond hearing as authorities worked to determine if he would be released on bond before having to report to prison, or if he would continue to remain in jail until then.

According to the judge in court, Khalil was not considered a flight risk or danger to the community, but because he previously violated a bond stipulation saying he would not gamble after posting bond, his bail was again denied.

Khalil's wife spoke with the media after Wednesday's hearing.

"He [Izzat Khalil] has cooperated with them in every way possible. They are being unfair to him. He has put his life and our life in danger by cooperating with them. And I feel they are not treating him fairly," Carolyn Khalil said, acknowledging she wanted to speak even though she was asked not to by their attorney.

Two Greenville Co. deputies under investigation

Federal court documents filed by Khalil's attorney claim his case led to an investigation and firing of two Greenville County Sheriff's Office employees. Khalil's attorney says those former deputies are former Sgt. David Hays and Former Maj. Shea Smith.

Prosecuting U.S. Attorney William Watkins confirmed the Greenville County Sheriff Steve Loftis asked the FBI to investigate after learning of improper conduct within his office last fall.

In court, Watkins said Loftis told the FBI to search it out and follow the investigation wherever it went.

In a motion of variance filed in federal court on July 22, the document states that for many years the sheriff's office had knowledge of Khalil's gambling operations. The motion said he would be cited, pay a fine and be back in business within a day or two.

Crane said, "He (Khalil) has also given detailed information concerning police corruption involving two Greenville County deputy sheriffs, which has resulted in the dismissal of both officers from the sheriff's office and the possibility of criminal charges being filed against the officers."

The documents state Khalil contributed to charitable causes of the sheriff's office and always gave a contribution when solicited by law enforcement officers, which usually happened at his base of operations.

However, Crane made it clear that nobody at the sheriff's office was directly involved in Khalil's gambling operation.

"Like I said, neither of the officers nor do I know of any other deputy sheriff's that have actually been involved in the operations or profited from the operations. That's not what happened," Crane said.

When Smith was fired, Sheriff Steve Loftis said he was terminated for "violation of sheriff's office rules and regulations." He said a criminal investigation is now being conducted.

During court on Tuesday, Crane told Judge Mary Lewis on the record that Hays would receive cash payments in return for tipping him off to raids.

Crane also told the judge that Smith would meet up with Khalil and tell him where the search warrants would be happening the next day in exchange for money. Crane said Khalil helped Smith pay off a truck he financed and wrote checks to an immediate family member of Smith's.

Smith and Hays are no longer under federal investigation. The investigation into the two is now being led by the sheriff's office.

Watkins said this activity by these two deputies does not reflect the Greenville County Sheriff's Office.

Greenville Co. sheriff speaks out about investigation

FOX Carolina's Cody Alcorn spoke exclusively on Tuesday with Loftis, who said he was the one who turned Khalil's gambling case over to federal investigators, ultimately leading them back to his own two deputies.

Loftis said the sheriff's office did not just let Khalil's gambling operation go on.

"Did we turn our heads? Absolutely not," Loftis said. "We knew the gambling was going on but what we were dealing with is state law. Every time the defendant in this case was charged, which I think was a total of 26 times, he would pay a $100 fine and get out. So, we don't have the manpower to keep someone stationed at his gambling location 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

Regarding the connection to his two deputies, Loftis said, "As far as Shea Smith and David Hays are concerned ... needless to say I'm human, I was very upset when I initially found out about it. But I took immediate action and terminated both of them."

Loftis was quick to point out Khalil's arrest.

"Mr. Khalil is a career criminal, he's a slick con-man and a polished liar," Loftis said. "He's desperately trying to avoid a long stretch in federal prison in which his last ditch Hail Mary plan is to throw as much dirt as possible at our office and hope that some of it sticks."

He said the investigation into Hays and Smith is ongoing and could not give a time-table for when it would be finished.

"I ask the public to continue to trust me and our office, let us complete our investigation and I promise all facts and circumstances surrounding this matter will be made public," Loftis said.

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