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Jailcigs in Court

Whistleblower fired after leaking details of alleged ecig corruption in an American sheriff’s office

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Last April, we briefly covered the tale of the suspension of Sheriff Robert Arnold pending an investigation into the sale and distribution of Jailcigs electronic cigarettes in his county’s jails. It is a tale that has taken a twist with the whistleblower now suing the country, the sheriff’s office and the sheriff himself.

An accusation that Arnold was benefiting from the sale of Jailcigs to prisoners resulted in him being placed on leave pending investigations. Financial officers had difficulty locating the money generated from electronic cigarette sales and then journalists discovered paperwork linking the sheriff directly to the Jailcigs company. It transpired that not only did his aunt and uncle run it but he also held a large shareholding.

It wasn’t the first time that Arnold had been dragged into the public eye. Previously, the sheriff defended police brutality carried out by his officers. In incidents that went viral on Youtube: the first involved a roadside stop, the second depicts an inmate tied to a chair being attacked with CS spray. He was also strongly criticised for standing by and watching a man burn alive because, his excuse, he was wearing the wrong kind of clothes to rescue him. He went on to donate these uniforms to the fire department.

Despite being linked to ecig company and benefiting from sales, the police officer continued to obfuscate and be economical with the truth to journalists. The full scale of the alleged corruption has come to light as Former Rutherford County Deputy Chief Sheriff' Virgil Gammon sought legal redress for his sacking.

Gammon claims he was booted from office by Arnold because he blown the whistle on illegal activity. His blemish-free 38 year tenure in the post came to an abrupt end after, he says, he reported numerous “unethical and unlawful” actions carried out by Arnold. Arnold is now under investigation by the FBI following the revelations.

He claims that Jailcigs gained the supply contract without having tendering a bid, “avoiding statutory contractual requirements”. He also revealed that a phone service supplied to inmates was through a company owned by someone married to a representative of Jailcigs. Plus, the commissary office tasked with selling the ecigs to prisoners made a substantial contribution to the sheriff’s re-election campaign. 

Sam Stockard writes: “In March 2015, as the sheriff's office command staff was working on the fiscal 2016 budget, Russell [Jailcigs owner] accidentally showed an e-cigarettes revenue report that had been withheld from Gammon, confirming to him the sheriff's office was illegally "secreting funds" from JailCigs.”

Stockard continues: “Arnold discussed the matter with Gammon, who told him he had crossed a line with the vendor. Garrett assured Arnold ‘we'll work it out,’ and Arnold admitted he ‘messed up,’ didn't know what to do, admitted it was about the money and stated ‘I got greedy,’ the lawsuit says.”

Gammon was terminated in September in breach of the protection afforded him by the Whistleblower Act. Even if this isn’t a tale of li-ion batteries, it looks set for an explosive conclusion.

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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