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Indicted Gibson Co. Sheriff directed $1.4M to company he owned through inmate labor scheme

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Indicted Gibson Co. Sheriff directed $1.4M to company he owned through inmate labor scheme

Jun 14, 2024 | 6:00 am ET
By Adam Friedman
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Indicted Gibson Co. Sheriff directed $1.4M to company he owned through inmate labor scheme
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The now-indicted Gibson County Sheriff directed nearly $1.4 million to a firm in which he had a stake as part of an inmate labor scheme, an investigation released earlier this week by the Tennessee Comptroller detailed.

Gibson County Sheriff Paul Thomas and four West Tennessee businessmen allegedly created three companies under an entity called Alliance Group, which acted as a middleman for hiring out inmates to local businesses.

Alliance Group then charged the workers for transportation, housing and took a portion of their hourly wage for finding them jobs. The investigation found numerous instances in which inmates earned a few thousand dollars, but after taxes and Alliance Group’s various fees, their take-home pay was zero.

Alliance and its subsidiaries generated $1.4 million in revenue over three years from the scheme. Thomas, who owned a 20% stake in the group, made $113,000, about $1,000 a week. The group also covered his legal expenses, amounting to around $60,000.

The report, released Wednesday, comes one month after a grand jury indicted Thomas on four counts of theft and forgery and 18 counts of official misconduct.

One of the companies formed by Thomas and his partners, Alliance Housing, known as the Orchard House, once received positive press coverage for its re-entry program and efforts to reduce recidivism.

But investigators found that Thomas used unpaid inmate labor to build the Orchard House. Those who stayed at the Orchard House also attended church, with Alliance taking money out of their wages for weekly tithes without permission.

“Investigators could not substantiate if the inmates received any benefit or advantage from participation in the Orchard House program,” the comptroller report said.

Thomas turned himself into authorities, but has not stepped down from his job.

The report

GibsonCountySheriffReport