Cover-ups, Cigarettes, Abuse: Your Tax Money At Work

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In what is one of the more bizarre tenures in Rutherford County political history, Sheriff Arnold faces new charges. The Rutherford County Sheriff finds himself facing new accusations of domestic abuse following a Labor Day incident at his home that was initially not reported by the Sheriff’s Department.

According to court papers filed Thursday morning, Megan Arnold told the TBI that her husband had been drinking. He blocked her from entering their bedroom. She “reached through the door opening, twisted the defendant’s nipple.”

Sheriff Arnold then allegedly “pushed Mrs. Arnold to the floor and punched her in her right arm near her shoulder.”

Megan Arnold then “kicked the defendant.” Robert Arnold then allegedly “grabbed a belt and wrapped it around Mrs. Arnold in an attempt to drag her out of the room without leaving marks on her body.” She slipped out of the belt before he “pinned her on the bed with his body.”

According to WSMV, Mrs. Arnold would later not sign the statement for the U.S. Attorney’s office, verbally denied the statement, and said she is filing for divorce.

More disturbing is the fact that the whole incident seems to have been covered up by the Sheriff’s Department. According to WSMV, they asked the Sheriff’s Department about a tip they received about two deputies going to Arnold’s house on Labor Day after a call to the office. However, the Sheriff’s office denied any such call or record of a complaint. WSMV filed an open records request and found through GPS tracking, this was in fact not the case and 2 deputies were at Arnold’s home while on duty.

One of the two deputies who responded is Deputy Sheriff James Vanderveer, the son of John Vanderveer and Arnold’s cousin. John Vanderveer is the co-owner of JailCigs. You might ask: What is JailCigs?

JailCigs

Robert F. Arnold, 40, Sheriff of Rutherford County, Tennessee; Chief Deputy Joe L. Russell II, 49, also of Rutherford County; and John Vanderveer, 58, of Marietta, Georgia, Arnold’s uncle, were charged in a 14-count indictment with honest services fraud, wire fraud, bribery concerning federal programs, extortion under color of official right, obstruction of justice and conspiracy.

The indictment alleges that Arnold, Russell and Vanderveer devised a scheme to exploit Arnold’s and Russell’s official positions to make tens of thousands of dollars selling e-cigarettes in the Rutherford County Jail.  Specifically, in October 2013, each defendant allegedly invested $3,000 to start JailCigs LLC, a private company that would allow friends and family members of inmates to purchase e-cigarettes online and have them shipped to the jail for distribution by jail personnel and use by inmates.  As part of its marketing strategy, JailCigs allegedly promised a $5 commission for every e-cigarette sold to the jail or detention facility.  In late 2013, Arnold and Russell introduced JailCigs into the Rutherford County Jail, JailCigs’s first and largest customer in Tennessee.  Over the next year and a half, JailCigs allegedly sold approximately 10,500 e-cigarettes for delivery to Rutherford County Jail inmates, totaling $156,975 in revenue.

Arnold and Russell allegedly used their official positions to make JailCigs profitable, including by allowing the company’s e-cigarettes to be admitted into the Rutherford County Jail as non-contraband; directing jail employees to perform tasks beneficial to JailCigs on county time; promoting JailCigs to other sheriff offices and counties; and waiving Rutherford County’s customary commission from the sale of JailCigs.  Arnold and Russell also failed to subject the business arrangement with JailCigs to a competitive bidding process and did not enter into a written contract with the company, despite being advised to do both things by the county attorney, according to the indictment.  Between December 2013 and April 2015, Arnold allegedly received $66,790 from JailCigs and Russell and Vanderveer each received roughly $50,000.

On the eve of the 2014 election, in which Arnold was running for reelection as Sheriff of Rutherford County, Russell allegedly emailed a JailCigs customer and reminded the customer that it was Arnold who brought the JailCigs program to the Rutherford County Jail for the enjoyment of inmates and if Arnold was not reelected, the program would come to an end.  The indictment alleges that Russell’s email implored the customer to “tell everyone you know to support Sheriff Arnold in his re-election.”

When various people raised questions and concerns about the propriety of the arrangement between JailCigs and Rutherford County, Arnold and Russell allegedly made misrepresentations that the arrangement had been approved by various officials, including the county attorney and the county auditor, and repeatedly denied that they were personally involved with JailCigs or were receiving any benefit from the sale of its product.  The indictment also alleges that in an effort to protect JailCigs’s ongoing business, Arnold subsequently made several false and misleading statements to the media about his role in and knowledge of JailCigs, including saying that he was unaware of Russell’s involvement with JailCigs and that he was “shocked” and “taken back” by the discovery.  Arnold allegedly also told the media that he had not received any income from JailCigs and had made a mistake when he listed JailCigs as a source of income on his state “Statement of Disclosure of Interests” form.  The day before making this statement, however, Arnold allegedly had deposited a $3,900 check from JailCigs.

The indictment also alleges that on April 17, 2015, after learning of the media reports and pending criminal investigation, Vanderveer met with the Tennessee sales representative for JailCigs and told her that “Joe” wanted her to destroy her commission tabulation sheets, which contained evidence of the scheme. — SOURCE

What Now?

According to WSMV , the pre-trial officer wants  to change the condition of Robert Arnold’s release, saying he has to stop drinking, get alcohol abuse counseling and anger management, and keep his gun away from his home and his vehicle. The Attorney General wants him arrested. The matter is in front of a judge.

But what about the residents of the county? Who is actually running the Sheriff’s Department? How will the County Council members react? We thought we would ask you, should Sheriff Arnold resign office:
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