Ron Tully, synthetic nicotine entrepreneur and a former board member at the Vapor Technology Association (VTA), has been charged with mail fraud. Federal prosecutors say Tully stole more than $833,000 between 2009 and 2016 from a tobacco industry council.
Tully is best known to vapers from his company Next Generation Labs, which manufactures synthetic nicotine. But before that, Tully had a long career in the tobacco industry.
It is unclear when Tully was removed from the VTA board, but the leadership page was removed from the trade group’s website yesterday, and today Tully’s name is no longer listed. He is not charged with any financial malfeasance involving VTA. According to statement from the group (see below), Tully has resigned from the VTA board.
The charges were filed this week in U.S. District Court in Richmond, VA, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Neither Tully — who lives in Arizona — nor his attorney would comment to the newspaper.
Prosecutors say Tully stole the money from the Council of Independent Tobacco Manufacturers of America, a trade group he helped found. His employer, National Tobacco Company, paid him for his duties at the council.
He was responsible for the council’s banking, and wrote checks to pay for the organization’s expenses. Prosecutors say he wrote checks from the council to himself and to a consulting company he owned.
Mail fraud is a criminal charge that can carry penalties of up to 20 years in prison, and significant fines. Prosecutors are also asking for forfeiture of more than $833,000 to reimburse the stolen money.
VTA issued a statement about the situation by email on Wednesday.
VTA Members and Industry Peers,
VTA was both disappointed and saddened to read the allegations in the Richmond-Times Dispatch article late yesterday about Ron Tully. The article described a federal indictment against Mr. Tully relating to mail fraud in connection with his work on the Council of Independent Tobacco Manufacturers of America (CITMA).
Mr. Tully has filled the board seat on VTA for Next Generation Labs, which was an original board member of VTA. Prior to that, Mr. Tully was a Board member of the Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA) for many years, and he sits/has sat on a number of other boards in the industry. The federal filing does not make any allegations relating to Mr. Tully's time on the Board of VTA or, for that matter, any other organization on whose board he served or serves.
To be clear, Mr. Tully did not have access to any funds or accounts of VTA at any time, and neither he nor any entities with which he worked received any payment in any form from VTA.
Further, VTA Board members do not receive any payment of any kind for their participation on the Board. Neither VTA Board companies, nor the individuals who represent those companies on the Board, have any contractual relationships with the Association.
Again, we are both disappointed and saddened by the allegations. Mr. Tully has had a long and respected history of developing, and forcefully advocating for, new and/or innovative products in the smokeless and vapor world that would further tobacco harm reduction efforts.
However, while VTA has no knowledge or information regarding the truth of the federal allegations, we as an Association have demanded the immediate and formal resignation of Mr. Tully from his position on the Board.