Sheriff sent to prison for e-cigarette scheme devised with Marietta man

The get-rich-quick scheme devised by a Marietta man and his nephew seemed like it couldn't miss. Set up a business to sell e-cigarettes for jail inmates - and use jail employees to distribute them.

Former Tennessee sheriff Robert Arnold

How could it fail? The nephew was Sheriff Robert F. Arnold of Rutherford County, Tennessee. He allowed the e-cigs in the jail as non-contraband, and had his jailers help distribute them. To entice other jails to take part, the sheriff, his chief deputy Joe L. Russell and Arnold's uncle, John Vanderveer of Marietta, Georgia, offered to pay jails $5 for every e-cigarette sold.

Now, Arnold will be spending the next four years in prison on federal corruption charges. Come September, Vanderveer and Russell face sentencing in the same scheme. They set up the business in 2013.

Arnold admitted to using his position of sheriff to benefit the Marietta company, JailCigs. He also took steps to disguise his involvement in the company, once saying that the was "shocked" and "taken aback" to learn of his deputy's involvement in the scheme. He stopped the deal once it was exposed.

Arnold also admitted to lying about how much he was making from the deal. The judge ordered him to forfeit the $66,760 in illicit profits and pay $52,500 restitution.

Vanderveer is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 6; Russell, on Sept. 8.

In pleading guilty earlier this year, Vanderveer admitted that he tried to cover up the scheme by telling the Tennessee sales representative for JailCigs to destroy her commission sheets so the company could create fraudulent sheets showing the payments going to her, not the sheriff. He also admitted received more than $49,000 from selling the e-cigarettes to Rutherford County Jail inmates.

About the Author

Lois Norder
Lois Norder
Norder leads a team of investigative journalists