TN Sheriff Indicted On 113 Misconduct, Theft, Fraud Charges – Receives $10K Bond

Following a probe by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, former Gibson County sheriff Chuck Arnold was indicted on 113 criminal charges by a grand jury on Monday.

The investigation began in 2014 after current sheriff, Paul Thomas, took office and found missing items and accounting errors. An audit would latter reveal numerous discrepancies in the realm of employee compensation, drug fund accounting, and distribution of prescriptions made out in the names of inmates between July 2013 and September 2014.

“This started out as a concern the current sheriff had when he came into office that there were some items missing,” TBI spokeswoman Susan Niland said. “As a result of that, they found several discrepancies in areas such as employee compensation, monies from the drug fund, and the way that some prescriptions were being handled.”

According to a TBI news release:

Arnold has been charged with four counts of theft over $10,000, 55 counts of official misconduct, nine counts of theft over $1,000, one count of forgery, one count of theft of $500 or more, one count of attempted theft of $1,000 or more, two counts of attempted theft of $10,000 or more, one count of conspiracy to obtain a controlled substance by fraud, and 39 counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud.

Officials say the 58-year-old former sheriff is already out on bond – which, despite his 113 charges, was set at just $10,000. Lawyers for Arnold say he plans to plead not guilty to the charges.

Indictments were also handed down against five other former and six current employees of the Gibson County Sheriff’s Office, current sheriff Paul Thomas said.

The current employees have been identified as Eddie Bradford, Joel Hughey, and Charles Simpson, who work in corrections; Melissa Hunt, who handles statistics reporting with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation; Shaun Phinnessee, who is a sheriff’s deputy; and Teresa Sturdivant, a commissary clerk.

Renea Terrell, who currently works as a contract nurse practitioner with the Sheriff’s Office was also charged.

According to the TBI news release:

Through the investigation, TBI Agents learned that former Sheriff Chuck Arnold and former Chief Deputy Jeff Maitland allowed employees to be paid for regular and/or overtime hours they didn’t work. Special Agents also developed information that Arnold, Maitland and Terrell… were involved in writing and filling prescriptions for controlled substances in the names of inmates who never received the medication. The investigation further revealed that Arnold removed money from the drug fund for his personal use, and forged documents using another individual’s name.

Thomas said the investigation was conducted on his request because he wanted to protect himself from taking the blame, or being accused of covering up, for his predecessor.

“Honestly, the audit I asked for was more for my protection. I just wanted to make sure when I took office what I was responsible for,” Thomas said. “As they were trying to identify my starting point with the last stopping point from the previous administration, they started noticing the discrepancies.”

Aside from Arnold, the complete list of the individuals indicted and what they have been charged with are as follows:

• Jeff Maitland, 48 – One count Attempted Theft of $10,000 or more, 42 counts Official Misconduct, one count Conspiracy to Obtain Controlled Substances by Fraud, 39 counts Obtaining Controlled Substances by Fraud, one count Theft of $1,000 or more, two counts Theft of $10,000 or more. Bond set at $5,000.

• Eddie Bradford, 41 – One count Theft of $1,000 or more, one count Official Misconduct. Bond set at $2,500.

• Darla Crenshaw, 48 – One count Attempted Theft of $1,000 or more, two counts Official Misconduct, one count Theft of $1,000 or more. Bond set at $2,500.

• Joel Hughey, 39 – One count of Theft of $1,000 or more, one count Official Misconduct. Bond set at $2,500.

• Melissa Hunt, 28 – One count Theft of $1,000 or more, one count Official Misconduct. Bond set at $2,500.

• Benjamin Lee, 49 – One count Theft of $10,000 or more, one count Official Misconduct. Bond set at $2,500.

• Shaun Phinnessee, 37 – One count Theft of $1,000 or more, one count Official Misconduct. Bond set at $2,500.

• Robert Pinkerton, 36 – Two counts Theft of $10,000 or more, two counts Official Misconduct. Bond set at $2,500.

• Charles Simpson, 65 – One count Theft of $10,000 or more, one count Official Misconduct. Bond set at $2,500.

• Teresa Sturdivant, 45 – One count Theft of $1,000 or more, one count Official Misconduct. Bond set at $2,500.

• Renea Terrell, 46 – One count Conspiracy to Obtain Controlled Substance by Fraud, 39 counts Obtaining Controlled Substance by Fraud, 39 counts Official Misconduct, two counts Theft $1,000 or more. Bond set at $2,500.

All of the indicted were booked into the Gibson County Correctional Complex on Monday.

Thomas says he expects all of them to be released, like Arnold, on the incredibly small bond amounts they received. “It’s mind boggling,” he said of the indictments. “It’s a little disheartening.”

EPN

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