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Florida deputy accused of helping out major drug traffickers

Joseph Barnes has been with the Gadsen County Sheriff's Office since 2004

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The FBI has arrested a Florida deputy suspected of tipping off drug traffickers who were under federal surveillance and helping them avoid detection.

Gadsen County Sheriff’s Deputy Joseph Barnes, Jr., 52, was released Thursday following his arrest on a felony charge of unlawful use of a communication facility to aid or facilitate the possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.

Barnes came under scrutiny during an ongoing investigation by the Organized Drug Enforcement Task Force into the trafficking of cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA. He was identified by informants as someone willing to help traffickers in exchange for money, according to a federal complaint.

The complaint said Barnes, who’s worked for the Sheriff’s Office since 2004, not only looked the other way but also helped traffickers and supplied them with intelligence. In addition, it said he offered to sweep their vehicles for any GPS tracking devices that had been planted by law enforcement.

An FBI spokesperson on Friday said the agency had no comment on the deputy’s arrest.

One confidential source provided agents with a phone number used by Barnes, a number known to the DEA that had “inexplicably communicated" with multiple targets of the ongoing investigation. The source was later wired for sound when the pair met on several occasions in 2018 and 2019.

The complaint said agents were watching when Barnes searched the same source’s vehicle for any signs of a GPS device. In April, he also had his agency K-9 sniff the source’s “trap car,” a vehicle equipped with a secret cargo hold, to see if the dog detected the presence of drugs inside.

Barnes is currently free while he awaits prosecution. Under the court-ordered terms of his release, he was required to surrender his service weapons and agency K-9.


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