Gibson, Tn – Former Gibson County Sheriff, Chuck Arnold, found himself arrested after the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations and the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury jointly found that he and eleven other members of the Gibson County Sheriff’s Office committed theft and fraud.
When the new Sheriff came to town, Paul Thomas, who took over the position in September 2014, discovered many discrepancies in the department’s financial records. After a thorough audit, it was determined that there were discrepancies in payroll, prescription medication funding, and in pharmaceuticals prescribed to patients.
The investigation uncovered the former Sheriff’s involvement, along with the Chief Deputy Jeff Maitland, in a scheme to steal money from the county by allowing employees’ to clock in for hours that they did not work. Some employees were paid large amounts of overtime for days in which they were absent. Both the former Sheriff and Chief Deputy Maitland were found to have been involved in a prescription drug fraud scheme, as well.
Renea Terrell, a nurse with the Sheriff’s Office, was working with the Chief and his Deputy; filling prescriptions in the names of prisoners who never received them. How many prescriptions there were and where they ended up, are not yet known. Arnold was also caught stealing from the prescription drug fund for personal financial reasons. There are also allegations that Arnold forged documents in an attempt to cover his tracks.
The other suspects indicted were all employees at the Sheriff’s Office. They were identified as Eddie Bradford, Darla Crenshaw, Joel Hughey, Melissa Hunt, Benjamin Lee, Shaun Phinnessee, Robert Pinkerton, Charles Simpson, Teresa Sturdivant and Renea Terrell. Their charges were either official misconduct or theft, ranging from $1000 to $10,000 or more. Despite these individuals having been charged with a crime, none of the six currently employed there have been terminated. The Sheriff advised that he would be meeting with each employee individually, to discuss their future with the department.
Tennessee might be the most corrupt state in America. A big statement, I know. However, The Daily Beast reported that based on ten years worth of data, from 98-08, Tennessee was ranked number one in public corruption, racketeering and extortion, fraud and embezzlement. Others link Tennessee’s economic development incentives and large scale corporate subsidies to institutionalized corruption at the state level.
Tennessee was ranked number one in business subsidies by economic watchdog group Good Jobs First. Many of the recipients of Tennessee’s business incentive programs are politically connected and appear to serve political agendas. So far, Tennessee’s incentive programs have done little to show any real economic benefit to the community while costing tax payers hundreds of millions of dollars.
Sheriff Thomas advised that he had the audits conducted for his own protection, not expecting to find this level of corruption. He was surprised at the number of indictments that came from the investigation. Arnold’s attorney has stated that he will plead not guilty in this case.
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