Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Tennessee
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Former Rutherford County Sheriff Sentenced On Federal Corruption Charges
Former Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold, 41, of Murfreesboro, Tenn., was sentenced today to 50 months in prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release, after pleading guilty earlier this year to fraud and corruption charges, announced 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 was indicted in May 2016 and in January 2017, he pleaded guilty to wire fraud, honest services fraud and extortion under color of official right. These 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 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 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.
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 obtained that should have been paid to the county general fund. Judge 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, of Rutherford County, Tennessee, and John Vanderveer, of Marietta, Georgia, pleaded guilty on Jan. 20 and Jan. 30, respectively. Vanderveer is set to be sentenced on September 6, 2017 and Russell is set to be sentenced on September 8, 2017.
This case was prosecuted by 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. The case was investigated by special agents from the FBI and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.