Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold along with his uncle John Vanderveer and Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office Administrative Chief Deputy Joe Russell were indicted by a grand jury Friday morning following an ongoing investigation.
Arnold now faces 14 indictments including one count of conspiracy, three counts of money property fraud, four counts of honest services fraud, two counts of bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, one count of extortion under color of official right and one count of attempt to tamper with a witness by corrupt persuasion.
Arnold has been the focus of an investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation since April 2015. His home and the sheriff’s office were raided in May 2015 by both the Tennessee and federal bureaus of investigation.
The investigation of Arnold started around the same time that the sheriff was found to be a benefactor of JailCigs, a company that sold e-cigarettes at the Rutherford County Jail. Sales of JailCigs began in October 2013 and continued until April 2015. Records show that 10,500 e-cigarettes were delivered to inmates at the Rutherford County Jail.
JailCigs is owned and operated by his aunt and uncle in Marietta, Georgia. His wife was a part-time employee of the company at the time of the investigation.
Arnold told News 2 that any money that ended up in his bank account because of JailCigs was “pretty much” because his wife worked there.
The indictments claim that Arnold, Vanderveer and Russell conspired to commit offenses against the United States by creating a scheme to retrieve money and property from Rutherford County under false pretenses.
They also allege that Arnold used his position as sheriff to allow JailCigs to be used in the Rutherford County Jail, thereby letting jail employees perform tasks beneficial to JailCigs, promoting the company to additional sheriffs’ offices and other counties and permitting JailCigs to not pay Rutherford County the customary commission paid to other counties in Tennessee.
According to the indictment, Russell and Vanderveer are accused of bribing Arnold by offering him kickbacks, including opportunities to invest in JailCigs and tens of thousands of dollars in payments. JailCigs began making payments to Arnold, Vanderveer and Russell beginning in October 2013. The estimated amount of revenue generated from JailCigs in Rutherford County is totaled at $156,975. According to the indictments, Arnold received $66,790, Russell received $52,234.41 and Vanderveer received $49,545.50.
All three allegedly concealed Arnold and Russell’s involvement with JailCigs from Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office employees, officials, officials in other counties and the citizens of Rutherford County. The indictments claim that they made false and misleading statements that they had been granted approval from the county auditors and attorney for the agreement between Rutherford County and JailCigs.
After learning of the investigation, Arnold, Vanderveer and Russell allegedly directed a witness to destroy documents that linked JailCig payments to Arnold and Russell.