Former Tennessee Sheriff Gets 4 Years on Corruption Charges

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CN) – A former Tennessee sheriff was sentenced to more than four years in prison Thursday for using his position to benefit his jail e-cigarettes company, trying to hide his involvement in the venture, and lying about the money he made.

Robert Arnold, 41, was sentenced to 50 months in prison after pleading guilty in January to wire fraud, honest services fraud and extortion under color of official right for his role in a company that sells e-cigarettes to inmates.

Arnold is the former sheriff of Rutherford County, Tenn. He formed JailCigs LLC with his uncle John Vanderveer and Joe Russell II, former chief administrative deputy for Rutherford County.

Each invested $3,000 in October 2013 to start the company, which sold electronic cigarettes to inmates in Rutherford County jail.

Though Arnold denied receiving any profit from the company, prosecutors say he made $66,000 from JailCigs between October 2013 and April 2015.

After being arrested in September and suspended two months later, Arnold admitted in January that he used his position as sheriff to benefit JailCigs, took steps to disguise his involvement in the company, and lied about his JailCigs income when pressed by local media in April 2015.

Each of the three charges Arnold pleaded guilty to carried a maximum possible sentence of 20 years.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Marvin E. Aspen – an Illinois judge sitting by designation in the Middle District of Tennessee – sentenced Arnold to 50 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release.

The former sheriff had agreed in his plea deal to pay $52,500 in restitution to Rutherford County. Judge Aspen also ordered him to forfeit $66,790 for the money he made from JailCigs.

Co-defendants Vanderveer and Russell also pleaded guilty in January. Vanderveer will be sentenced on Sept. 6 and Russell’s sentencing is scheduled for two days later.

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