A former Rutherford County Sheriff was sentenced today to 50 months in prison for operating a private electronic cigarette company in the county jail for personal gain and the concealment and misrepresentation of their involvement with the business, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Acting U.S. Attorney Jack Smith of the Middle District of Tennessee.
Robert F. Arnold, 41, of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, was sentenced today by Senior U.S. District Judge Marvin E. Aspen of the Northern District of Illinois (sitting by designation in the Middle District of Tennessee) who also ordered Arnold to pay $52,500 in restitution and to forfeit $66,790, an amount equal to all proceeds he received from sales at the Rutherford County jail. Arnold previously pleaded guilty on Jan. 30, 2017 before Chief U.S. District Judge Kevin H. Sharp of the Middle District of Tennessee.
According to 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 be distributed by county employees; taking steps to disguise their involvement in the company; and misrepresenting the benefits that Rutherford County was supposedly receiving from JailCigs. Additionally, Arnold admitted that he personally received over $66,000 from the company, and that he lied about his income from – and knowledge of – JailCigs when he was confronted by local media in April 2015.
Co-defendants former Chief Administrative Deputy Joe L. Russell II, of Rutherford County, Tennessee, and John Vanderveer, of Marietta, Georgia, pleaded guilty on Jan. 20, 2017, and Jan. 30, 2017, respectively. Vanderveer is set to be sentenced on Sept. 6, 2017, and Russell is set to be sentenced on Sept. 8, 2017.
The FBI and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation investigated the case. Trial Attorney Mark J. Cipolletti of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Cecil W. VanDevender of the Middle District of Tennessee prosecuted the case.