There are new concerns about a for-profit business with ties to the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office.

Channel 4 first reported a company selling electronic cigarettes to inmates was owned by Sheriff Robert Arnold's relatives and his chief deputy.

Another company set up to sell snacks to inmates is also connected to officials at the Rutherford County Jail and relatives of the sheriff.

Many jails ban real cigarettes, but a few allow their inmates to order e-cigarettes, including the Rutherford County Jail.

Inmates are allowed to buy e-cigarettes from a company called JailCigs.

"JailCigs is a company that sells electronic cigarettes throughout the state and several other states," Arnold said.

JailCigs is owned by the sheriff's aunt and uncle in Georgia. The sheriff also admits his wife works there part-time.

Also listed as an owner of JailCigs is the sheriff's second in command, Joe Russell.

Arnold appeared surprised when Channel 4 showed him Russell's name on JailCigs' incorporation papers on Tuesday. He agreed it was a problem.

"I'm kind of shocked about that," Arnold said.

Wednesday, the Channel 4 I-Team found a second company owned by Russell and the sheriff's aunt and uncle. The company is called JailSnacks LLC.

According to its website, JailSnacks sells snacks, drinks and hygiene products for detention centers.

According to documents, JailSnacks was formed in Georgia last July by the sheriff's aunt, and uncle and Russell.

Tuesday, Arnold told Channel 4 he didn't know Russell worked for his aunt and uncle's out-of-state company. Because of that, he wasn't going to allow JailCigs in his jail anymore.

"If Joe's tied to it, it can't be in here," Arnold said.

The I-Team was unable to reach Russell on Wednesday about his connection to JailSnacks and JailCigs. He is reportedly on vacation.

Copyright 2015 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.



Nancy Amons is an award-winning member of the News4 I-Team. She has been breaking stories in Middle Tennessee for more than 20 years.

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