Former Deputy Sheriff and DEA Task Force Officer pleads guilty to conspiring to distribute narcotics, defrauding the United States, and tax evasion


Date: May 15, 2024


Jacksonville, Florida – United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that James Darrell Hickox of Jacksonville has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to distribute narcotics, one count of conspiring to defraud the United States, and one count of tax evasion. Hickox faces a combined maximum penalty of 50 years in federal prison for these offenses, including a minimum mandatory sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment for the drug distribution conspiracy. He has agreed to forfeit the money, firearms, and ammunition traceable to these offenses.

According to the plea agreement, while employed as a Nassau County Deputy Sheriff and designated Task Force Officer with the Drug Enforcement Administration, Hickox and a co-conspirator engaged in extensive corrupt activity from 2017 to 2023. These acts included the theft of money and illegal drugs that were seized as evidence during criminal investigations; providing illegal drugs (including fentanyl and cocaine) to others to distribute on his behalf; and hiding from the Internal Revenue Service more than $420,000 Hickox had received as a result of his criminal activities. Hickox and his co-conspirator stole more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana from evidence and provided the drugs to others to sell on their behalf. They had covered up the theft by submitting falsified paperwork showing that the marijuana had been destroyed. Similarly, the conspirators stole a kilogram of cocaine from evidence and gave it to a drug dealer to sell for them.

When Hickox’s residence was searched pursuant to a federal search warrant on March 10, 2023, agents found approximately 263 grams of a powder containing fentanyl, as well as cocaine. Hickox intended to distribute these substances. Agents also found a rifle that Hickox had illegally modified to function as a machinegun, as well as four additional firearms that had been seized during law enforcement investigations and should have been entered into evidence or been lawfully destroyed. Hickox had drilled out and obliterated the serial number on one of these firearms. Agents also located more than $195,000 in cash proceeds from Hickox’s illicit activities. A search of Hickox’s workspace at the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office revealed another 260 pills containing methamphetamine.

This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (CI) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney William S. Hamilton. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection wish to thank the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration for their cooperation during this investigation.

CI is the criminal investigative arm of the IRS, responsible for conducting financial crime investigations, including tax fraud, narcotics trafficking, money-laundering, public corruption, healthcare fraud, identity theft and more. CI special agents are the only federal law enforcement agents with investigative jurisdiction over violations of the Internal Revenue Code, obtaining a more than a 90 percent federal conviction rate. The agency has 20 field offices located across the U.S. and 12 attaché posts abroad.