Former DEA task force officer, Nassau deputy pleads guilty to drug trafficking, fraud, tax evasion

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — James Darrell Hickox, a 38-year-old former Nassau County deputy and Drug Enforcement Administration task force officer, has pleaded guilty to multiple charges including conspiring to distribute narcotics, defrauding the United States, and tax evasion.

Hickox faces a maximum penalty of 50 years in federal prison, with a mandatory minimum of 5 years for the drug distribution conspiracy. Additionally, he has agreed to forfeit money, firearms, and ammunition linked to his crimes.

READ: ‘Beyond angry:’ Nassau sheriff addresses former deputy’s arrest on federal drug charge

Hickox’s plea agreement details his involvement in a series of corrupt activities from 2017 to 2023. Along with a co-conspirator, Hickox stole money and illegal drugs seized during investigations, provided substances like fentanyl and cocaine to others for distribution, and concealed over $420,000 in illicit earnings from the IRS.

The conspirators additionally stole over 1,000 pounds of marijuana and a kilogram of cocaine from evidence, falsifying paperwork to cover up these thefts.

A federal search warrant executed on March 10, 2023, at Hickox’s residence uncovered 263 grams of fentanyl-laced powder, cocaine, and an illegally modified rifle. Additional firearms, which should have been entered into evidence or destroyed, were also found, including one with an obliterated serial number.

Investigators also recovered more than $195,000 in cash from Hickox’s illicit activities and 260 methamphetamine pills from his workspace.

The FBI and the IRS-Criminal Investigation investigated the case, with support from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and Assistant U.S. Attorney William S. Hamilton prosecuted the case. Authorities extend their gratitude to the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office and the DEA for their cooperation during the investigation.

Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper said in a statement released in March that he was “disgusted” when learning about the allegations against Hickox.

Here is Leeper’s statement in full:

“I believe we must make sure law enforcement officers who break the law are held accountable. I was shocked, disappointed, disgusted and beyond angry when I heard the allegations against Sergeant Hickox. He has let down his co-workers, our community, thrown away his career, as well as embarrassed his family. I am firmly committed to holding our employees to the highest ethical standards. Although law enforcement officers are human and humans make mistakes, his actions are unforgivable. We will do whatever it takes to ensure we are holding ourselves accountable. That means we will be looking at our policies and procedures to review anything that could be changed to prevent anything like this from happening again. I want to thank the FBI for their investigation into these crimes while Sergeant Hickox was assigned as a Task Force Officer for DEA in Jacksonville. Our profession relies heavily on trust and I will never tolerate this type of conduct at the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office. His poor judgement and criminal behavior should not reflect negatively on all the good men and women at NCSO who go out every day and do it the right way to keep our citizens safe.”

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