E.J. Melvin resignation letter.
Lee County, SC (WLTX) - Former Lee County Sheriff E.J. Melvin was denied bond Monday, as the government began laying out their case against the disgraced official on federal drug charges.
Melvin and eight other suspects went before a federal judge in Columbia Monday afternoon.
The suspects face federal drug charges in connection with a drug operation that the U.S. Attorney's office says has been in operation since 2006. The warrants, against the suspects, say the group were involved in a conspiracy to possess and distribute crack and powder cocaine. Previous Coverage: Lee County Sheriff E.J. Melvin Arrested
During the hearing, federal prosecutors said that Melvin had been recorded on cell phone wiretaps making comments described as "deeply disturbing" to the federal government.
Federal authorities say Melvin dealt drugs from his police SUV and extorted money from drug dealers to try to keep them out of trouble.
Melvin, 47, was arrested early Saturday morning. That same day he resigned as Lee County Sheriff, a position he had held since 2001.
His resignation was done with a handwritten letter. LINK: View E.J. Melvin's Letter of Resignation
Major Daniel Simon of the Lee County Sheriffs Department says Lee County Coroner Alford Elmore will take over as sheriff for now.
A spokesperson for Governor Mark Sanford said Monday that his office will appoint a replacement in the near future. A special election will then be held on August 31 to allow voters to choose a new sheriff. Filing for that election begins May 21, with primaries set for July 13.
The suspects face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of up to $4 million. Federal law calls for a mandatory minimum term of 10 years in prison.
We spoke with family members of Melvin after Monday's hearing. They all believe he will be cleared of the charges.
"He couldn't even understand what he was being charged with. He's still baffled. I'm confident Sheriff Melvin is going to return. I'm confident he's gonna be fully exonerated of all these charges. I know he didn't do these things," said brother Edward Melvin.