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Jailcigs Saga Lumbers To A Conclusion

Jailcig Sheriff’s chief administrator finally sentenced.

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Rutherford County finally writes the further chapter of a saga that seems to have rolled on for longer than the Director’s extended edition of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Jailcig’s sheriff Robert Arnold was sentenced to fifty months, but now his chief administrator Joe Russell has discovered his fate too.

Ex-sheriff Robert Arnold headed off to prison for 50 months, getting transferred from an Atlanta penitentiary to a Federal Prison Camp in Alabama, in June. He pled guilty to wire fraud, honest services fraud and extortion – then during the lead up to sentencing he also committed domestic assault, witness tampering and the intimidation of his wife.

Russell, from Murfreesboro, (Arnold’s former administrative chief deputy) made $52,000 from aiding his boss in his illegal enterprises. Jailcigs sold two types of electronic cigarettes designed for use in prison environments. Russell helped the company’s products into the Rutherford County jail system without any competitive bidding process. It is said that JailCigs sold $156,975 of e-cigarettes to inmates up to the point where ex-Sheriff Arnold was arrested.

Arnold plea-bargained and agreed to repay all of the money he made from the venture – but not Russell. He pled guilty to wire fraud, honest services and Hobbs Act extortion, but remains fighting tooth and nail not to have to pay any money over and above an initial $52,500 that he would be splitting with Arnold and one other, Arnold’s uncle, John Vanderveer.

The 50-year old Russell admitted, in January, to forming the JailCigs with Arnold and Vanderveer in 2013 and profiting off selling the e-cigarettes to inmates. After this the prosecuting team were demanding Russell faced a three-year prison sentence, combined with an additional seizure of his assets to the value of $52,234.

U.S. Attorney Donald Cochran stated on last Thursday that the former Rutherford County Sheriff Chief Administrative Deputy Joe L. Russell II would receive a custodial sentence. At the U.S. District Court in Nashville, the former Tennessee sheriff’s office employee was committed to prison “on charges related to working with the sheriff to profit from the sale of electronic cigarettes to inmates” for a period of 15 months.

In addition, much to the disappointment of Russell himself, U.S. Attorney Cochran also decreed that Russell has to hand over $52,500 in restitution and to forfeit a further $52,234.41; the total amount equalling all of the proceeds he made from his involvement with JailCigs.

In addition, Vanderveer was sentenced to one year plus one day. With no appeals planned, the tale of Jailcigs finally comes to a less than happy ending for those involved.

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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