TBI accuses man of theft from TN National Guard and sheriff’s office

News release from Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

NASHVILLE – An investigation by Special Agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Army National Guard Joint Force Headquarters has resulted in the arrest of a Linden man on charges of theft and official misconduct.                                                                   

At the initial request of 21st District Attorney General Kim Helper, in August 2015, TBI Special Agents began working with the Army National Guard Joint Force Headquarters in investigating then-Army National Guard Sergeant Dave Pendleton on allegations of theft. At that time, Pendleton was working with the Army National Guard, and was stationed at the National Guard Armory in Perry County.

During the course of the investigation, Agents developed information that between July 2014 and August 2015, while serving as a supply sergeant, Pendleton was responsible for the theft of approximately $129,369 worth of government property, including aviation and vehicle fuel, and equipment. The investigation further revealed that while employed as a deputy with the Perry County Sheriff’s Office, Pendleton used his county-issued gas key in July and August 2015 to purchase gas that was used in his private vehicle.

Agents also learned that while employed as a deputy, Pendleton arrested an individual on May 18, 2015, and confiscated a weapon. That weapon was never entered into evidence and was last seen in Pendleton’s possession. Pendleton is no longer an employee of either the Perry County Sheriff’s Office or the Army National Guard.

On Monday, the Perry County Grand Jury returned indictments charging Pendleton (DOB 8/27/1977) with one count of Theft over $60,000 and five counts of Official Misconduct. Pendleton was arrested Tuesday and booked into the Perry County Jail on a $25,000 bond.

Deputy sheriff charged with stealing tobacco

News release from Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

NASHVILLE – An investigation by Special Agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has resulted in the indictment and arrest of a former Macon County deputy who is charged with stealing tobacco.

At the request of 15th District Attorney General Tommy Thompson, on January 23rd, TBI Special Agents began investigating a theft complaint against then-Macon County Sheriff’s Deputy Troy Griggs. During the course of the investigation, Agents developed information that on January 17th, Griggs transported four bales of tobacco to a warehouse in Hartsville, to be sold as his own. The following day, the rightful owner of the tobacco reported to the warehouse that the product was his. The investigation revealed that the tobacco, with a value of approximately $5,300, had been stolen by Griggs on January 16th.  Griggs is no longer employed by the Macon County Sheriff’s Office.

On Monday, the Macon County Grand Jury returned an indictment charging Griggs (DOB 11/30/1973) with one count of Theft over $2,500. Griggs turned himself in to Agents Friday night. He was booked into the Macon County Jail and was released after posting a $2,500 bond.

Former Rutherford County sheriff’s official pleads guilty to lying about citizenship

Former Rutherford County Sheriff’s Maj. Terry McBurney has pleaded guilty to lying about being a U.S. citizen to become a licensed law officer, reports the Daily News Journal.

McBurney, an immigrant from Ireland who resigned from the Sheriff’s Office on Jan. 27, joined ex-sheriff Robert Arnold, Arnold’s uncle John Vanderveer and former sheriff’s administration chief Joe Russell in pleading guilty to felonies within the past couple of weeks.

McBurney, 47, has a sealed agreement  with the prosecution, said U.S. District Court  Chief Judge Kevin Sharp, who noted he holds final authority on sentencing.

“I’m not party to your plea agreement,” said Sharp, who scheduled the sentencing hearing to take place at 1:30 p.m. May 12 with another judge presiding after he resigns from the court  April 15.

McBurney pleaded guilty to nine counts with two related to lying and falsifying documents to continue being a law enforcement officer. The other seven charges pertained to wire fraud, so he could be paid for positions he was ineligible to hold because he was not a U.S. Citizen.

Judge Kevin Sharp asked McBurney several questions to ensure the defendant understood the agreement, and was pleading guilty and waiving the right to a jury trial.

“I am,” McBurney said before the judge repeated asking the defendant whether the former major was guilty or not guilty. “Guilty.”

Each of the nine counts includes up to a $250,000 fine, a $100 special assessment, three years of supervised release and the possibility of paying for incarceration costs if he’s able.

McBurney’s unlawful procurement of naturalization count has up to a 10-year sentence, and the charge of making false statements under oath relating to his application for U.S. citizenship has up to a five-year sentence, the judge said. Each of the other seven counts of wire fraud has up to 20-year sentences.

A third guilty plea in Rutherford Country sheriff corruption case

John Vanderveer became the third defendant to plead guilty in the Rutherford County sheriff’s corruption case on Monday, reports the Daily News Journal. Vanderveer is the nephew or former Sheriff Robert Arnold, who pleaded guilty earlier, along with Joe Russell, who was a chief administrator in the sheriff’s office.

Vanderveer pleaded guilty to one count of witness tampering for trying to convince a sales representative to destroy documents tied to Arnold and Russell.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, the recommended (sentencing) guideline range is 18 to 24 months in prison, prosecutors said.  Vandereer also faces a $250,000 fine and supervised release of not more than three years. He will also be required to repay the county $52,500 from electronic cigarettes revenues from the JailCigs business.

His sentencing hearing will take place at 2:30 p.m. on May 19.

Arnold, Vanderveer and Russell had faced a 14-count federal grand jury indictment since late May accusing them of illegally profiting from inmates at the Rutherford County Jail by selling Jail Cigs.  A jury trial had been scheduled Feb. 7 prior to the hearings on the guilty pleas.

Arnold pleaded guilty to wire fraud, honest services fraud and extortion on Jan. 18, and Russell pleaded guilty to the same three charges Jan. 20.

A second guilty plea in Rutherford County sheriff corruption case

Joe Russell, former administration chief for the Rutherford County sheriff’s office, pleaded guilty Friday for his role in illegally profiting off inmates through JailCigs sales at the county jail, reports the Daily News Journal.

Russell, who was fired in November, joined co-defendant and ex-sheriff Robert Arnold this week in entering identical guilty pleas.

Arnold pleaded guilty to wire fraud, honest services fraud and extortion Wednesday after receiving $66,790 from JailCigs electronic cigarette sales from December 2013 through April 2015, court records show. Russell received $52,234 from the company over that same period, according to a Tennessee Comptroller report released Nov. 16.

U.S. District Court  Judge Kevin Sharp asked Russell if the fired administration chief understood waiving rights to a jury trial by pleading guilty.

“Yes, your honor,” said Russell, who’s guilty plea agreement with the government is under seal.

Fellow co-defendant John Vanderveer, the uncle of Arnold, has not entered a guilty plea, and continues to await a Feb. 7 jury trial in Nashville and face a 14-count federal grand jury indictment issued in late May 2016.

The judge scheduled Russell’s sentencing hearing at 1:30 p.m. May 19, which follows the 10:30 a.m. May 8 sentencing hearing for Arnold.

Each count, at the judge’s discretion, carries up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, supervised release of not more than three years and a $52,500 restitution payment from electronic cigarettes revenues from the JailCigs business to the Rutherford County government.

“I am not bound by that,” Sharp told Russell. “Your sentence could be more harsh or less harsh.”

Inmates at the county jail ordered about 10,500 JailCigs. Arnold initially had planned to share a $5 cut per $12.95 order with the county government, but decided after being upset with county commissioners and the mayor in 2014 to keep the “commission owed to Rutherford County,” prosecuting attorney Mark Cipolletti said.

“He believed he would need extra money for his campaign,” said Cipolletti, noting that JailCigs revenues paid for about half of an Arnold campaign event.

Rutherford sheriff pleads guilty in corruption case


Former Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold pleaded guilty Wednesday to three of 14 counts stemming from a two-year criminal investigation into illegally profiting from inmates through a company selling electronic cigarettes, reports the Daily News Journal.

Arnold pleaded guilty to wire fraud, honest services fraud and extortion. Each count carries up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, supervised release of not more than three years and a $52,500 restitution payment from electronic cigarettes revenues from the JailCigs business to the county.

U.S. District Court Judge Kevin Sharp questioned Arnold numerous times to make sure the former sheriff understood that he was waiving his rights to a jury trial.

Me and my attorney have talked about it,” Arnold said. Arnold’s been segregated from other federal inmates at the Grayson County Jail in Kentucky since losing his pretrial release status Sept. 28.

The sentencing date was set for May 8, but the judge said he’d make it earlier if possible in responding to a request of one of Arnold’s attorneys.

Arnold’s attorneys also requested that he be released while awaiting his sentencing, but prosecutors told the judge they’d be filing an opposition by Friday.

Arnold, his uncle John Vanderveer and Russell have faced a 14-count federal grand jury indictment since late May accusing them of illegally profiting from inmates at the Rutherford County Jail in Murfreesboro through the sale of electronic cigarettes from the defendants’ JailCigs business. A jury trial had been scheduled Feb. 7 prior to the hearings on the guilty pleas. The guilty-plea hearings mentioned in court records as of early Wednesday afternoon did not mention Vanderveer.

Rutherford Commission names interim successor to jailed sheriff

The Rutherford County Commission voted, 11-0, Thursday to name Michael Fitzhugh as interim sheriff,  replacing elected Sheriff Robert Arnold, who is in jail awaiting trial on corruption charges.

Further from the Daily News Journal:

A former sheriff’s captain, Fitzhugh… beat out runner up Dale Armour, who got 10 votes in the final roll call. In previous roll call votes, former Deputy Chief Virgil Gammon dropped out of consideration after finishing third, and current Deputy Chief Keith Lowery dropped out after finishing fourth.

Fitzhugh said after the meeting that he intends to run for sheriff “if this job doesn’t kill me between now and 2018.”

“It’s going to take a lot of hard work,” Fitzhugh said. “I would like to continue. I would like to attract good people.”

Fitzhugh has 19 years experience with the sheriff’s office and 25 years in management with BellSouth.

Maury County jail inmate, denied abortion, sues sheriff

A lawsuit seeking $1.5 million in damages has been filed in Nashville against Maury County’s sheriff by a woman who says she was denied the right to have an abortion while in jail, reports The Tennessean.

The woman, Kei’Choura Cathey, was not released until it was too late for the procedure and had the child in April, the court filing says. Her lawsuit alleges Maury County Sheriff Bucky Rowland illegally denied her access to an abortion, which the nation’s top court has protected as a woman’s right for decades.

… Cathey, also 29, was arrested in July 2015 on robbery and murder conspiracy charges and found out weeks later she was pregnant, according to the lawsuit. Columbia police records say she and three others lured Javontay Garrett to a home to steal drugs and money and then fatally shot him.


Weeks later Cathey told Rowland, via her lawyer, that she wanted to have an abortion, but Rowland responded that he would not provide funding or transportation for the procedure, the lawsuit states. Rowland said that would not happen unless the abortion was “medically necessary to save the mother’s life or the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest,” according to the lawsuit.

… The case was filed earlier this month in federal court in Nashville. It argues that the sheriff’s denial, and his failure to have department policies that allowed access to abortions, inflicted cruel and unusual punishment on Cathey in violation of her Eighth Amendment rights. It also says Cathey’s civil rights and 14th Amendment rights to due process were violated.

Bradley sheriff investigated as unlicensed used car dealer

Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson is under investigation by Tennessee’s Motor Vehicle Commission for allegedly selling cars without a dealer’s license, reports the Times-Free Press.

The newspaper reported a week earlier that Watson has been buying used vehicles on, an online auction site where governments dispose of surplus and seized items, and then advertised a number of them locally or online on eBay or Craigslist.

The Motor Vehicle Commission wrote separately to Watson and to his dealer, Best Buy Auto and Leasing, on Friday, spokesman Kevin Walters of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance confirmed late Monday. The letters from Motor Vehicle Commission complaints program manager Jason Gilliam enclosed a copy of the Times Free Press report.

…Watson and Best Buy have 14 days to respond in writing, Gilliam’s letter states. The case will be forwarded to the legal division of the Commerce and Insurance department “for review and determination regarding further action, with or without your response,” the letter states.

…This investigation is separate from the six-months-and-counting probe by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation into other allegations against Watson. The TBI said in the Dec. 4 story that investigation remains “active and ongoing.”

…Watson has been a customer at least since he took office in September 2014, buying used vehicles for his patrol and court officers from towns as close as Knoxville and as far away as the Orlando area.

In August, he bought 18 vehicles from Miami-Dade, Fla., and Washington, D.C., through GovDeals. The Times Free Press verified his online bids and received copies of the titles to the vehicles under state and federal open records laws.

Soon cars with vehicle identification numbers matching those titles began showing up for sale in the area. Photos showed cars outside the Benton Police Department in Polk County, in a flea market parking lot on Waterlevel Highway and in a lot next to Watson’s father’s tire shop in Cleveland, among other places. The Tennessee Department of Revenue told the Times Free Press that as of Nov. 30, 11 of the 18 vehicles had been registered in Tennessee.

Note: Watson, before being elected sheriff in 2014, was a state representative and chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee.

High-ranking sheriff’s officer indicted for lying about citizenship

A leader in the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office has been indicted on criminal charges accusing him of lying about his citizenship status to become a police officer, reports the Daily News Journal.

Maj. Terry McBurney was indicted Wednesday on charges of unlawful procurement of naturalization, making false statements under oath in matters relating to his application for U.S. citizenship and wire fraud, the U.S. Attorney in the Middle District of Tennessee announced Thursday.

The indictment came down the same day as a Tennessee comptroller’s audit alleged McBurney lied and said he was a U.S. citizen to become a law enforcement officer. The criminal case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, officials said.

McBurney is from Ireland and is now a U.S. citizen. But authorities say he broke the law when he lied on his application to become a police officer in 2010 and on several immigration and employment documents since then.

The indictment says McBurney submitted an application for naturalization in September 2015 and, on the application and during an interview in that process, denied he had ever claimed to be a citizen. If convicted of the federal charges against him, McBurney could face prison time of up to 20 years. His citizenship could also be revoked, according to the U.S. Attorney.