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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Tennessee

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Former Rutherford County Tennessee Sheriff's Administrative Chief Deputy Sentenced On Federal Corruption Charges

Final Defendant Heading To Prison In Corruption Probe

Joe L. Russell, II, 50, of Murfreesboro, Tenn., the former Rutherford County Sheriff Chief Administrative Deputy, was sentenced today on federal corruption charges to 15 months for his role in operating a private electronic cigarette company in the county jail for personal gain, announced U.S. Attorney Don Cochran of the Middle District of Tennessee and Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.


Russell, along with former Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold and Arnold’s uncle, John Vanderveer, were named in a 14-count indictment in May 2016 charging honest services fraud; mail fraud; wire fraud; bribery concerning federal programs; extortion under color of official right; obstruction of justice; and conspiracy.  Russell pleaded guilty on January 20, 2017.


The sentence was handed down by Senior U.S. District Judge Marvin E. Aspen of the Northern District of Illinois, sitting by designation in the Middle District of Tennessee, who also ordered Russell to pay $52,500 in restitution and to forfeit $52,234.41, an amount equal to all proceeds he received from JailCigs, LLC, the company at the heart of the fraud scheme. 


According to court documents, Russell admitted to forming JailCigs along with Arnold and Vanderveer in 2013, using Arnold’s official position as Sheriff of Rutherford County.  The profit-making scheme to derive benefits from JailCigs included allowing the company’s electronic cigarettes to come into the Rutherford County jail as non-contraband and to be distributed by county employees; taking steps to disguise their involvement in the company; and misrepresenting the benefits that Rutherford County was supposedly receiving from JailCigs.


Robert F. Arnold, the former Sheriff of Rutherford County, pleaded guilty in January 2017 and was sentenced in May 2017 to 50 months in prison and ordered to pay $52,500 in restitution and to forfeit $66,790.  Arnold’s uncle, John Vanderveer, was sentenced in September 2017 to one year plus one day in prison, for attempting to tamper with a key witness in the investigation by asking her to destroy incriminating documents related to the scheme. 


The FBI and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Cecil W. VanDevender of the Middle District of Tennessee and Trial Attorneys Mark J. Cipolletti of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Andrew Laing of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section prosecuted the case. 

Public Corruption
David Boling Public Information Officer 615-736-5956
Updated November 16, 2017