Former Rutherford County sheriff sentenced to four years in prison

Staff Reports • May 4, 2017 at 12:56 PM

Former Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold was sentenced Thursday to 50 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, according to acting U.S. attorney Jack Smith of the Middle District of Tennessee and acting assistant attorney general Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

Arnold, 41, pleaded guilty earlier this year to fraud and corruption charges. He was indicted in May 2016 and January and pleaded guilty to wire fraud, honest services fraud and extortion under color of official right. The charges resulted from an investigation into his role in the formation and operation of the electronic cigarette company JailCigs LLC.

In his plea, Arnold admitted to using his official position as sheriff of Rutherford County to benefit JailCigs by allowing the company’s electronic cigarettes to come into the Rutherford County jail as non-contraband and to be distributed by county employees; taking steps to disguise his involvement in the company; and misrepresenting the benefits that Rutherford County was supposedly receiving from JailCigs.

Additionally, Arnold admitted he personally received more than $66,000 from the company, and he lied about his income from, and knowledge of, JailCigs when local media confronted him in April 2015.

In addition to his prison sentence, Senior U.S. District Judge Marvin E. Aspen of the Northern District of Illinois, sitting by designation in the Middle District of Tennessee, ordered Arnold to pay $52,500 in restitution to Rutherford County and to forfeit $66,790, an amount equal to the commission payments he received from sales at the Rutherford County Jail, plus the additional payments Arnold received that should have been paid to the county general fund.

Aspen also ordered Arnold to serve a three-year term of supervised release following his prison sentence.

Co-defendants, former Chief Administrative Deputy Joe L. Russell II and John Vaderveer pleaded guilty on Jan. 20 and Jan. 30 respectively. Vanderveer is set to be sentenced Sept. 6, and Russell is set to be sentenced Sept. 8.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Cecil W. VanDevender, of the Middle District of Tennessee and trial attorney Mark J. Cipolletti, of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section, prosecuted the case. Special agents from the FBI and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation led the investigation in the case. 

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