NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – A former Nassau County Sheriff’s Office sergeant is facing federal drug charges following an FBI investigation into drug trafficking.
James Hickox, 37, made his first appearance in federal court Monday afternoon after being arrested Friday. He’s accused of having large amounts of narcotics including cocaine, MDMA and fentanyl, with the intent to sell them.
Hickox was part of a DEA task force meant to get drugs and dealers off the streets.
We talked criminal defense attorney and long-time federal prosecutor Curtis Fallgatter, who is not affiliated with this case.
“Very unusual,” he said of the case. “Hundreds of thousands of drug cases make state court every year, but it isn’t very often that a law enforcement officer gets caught up in trafficking.”
A criminal complaint states that the FBI was tipped off by a defendant who was cooperating with investigators. They said that Hickox and another officer, who was not identified, would steal money and drugs seized during investigations.
The source added that he would sell some of the drugs for the two and give them a cut of the profit.
Federal agents said they searched his home last Friday, finding narcotics and close to $200,000 in cash.
Agents also analyzed Hickox’s bank accounts and found he routinely deposited thousands of dollars in a day, at multiple ATMs, over a 3-year period. When confronted with this information, Hickox said he didn’t know where the money came from, according to the criminal complaint.
We asked Fallgatter if the arrest could have an impact on cases Hickox was past involved with.
“It could be fairly dramatic. As we said, he’s been in narcotics and on the task force with federal and state officers for over a decade,” Fallgatter said.
Hickox was the second Jacksonville-area law enforcement officer arrested by the FBI on drug charges last Friday. Both were on the same task force for the DEA.
It’s unclear if their arrests are connected.
“In this particular case, the system worked because the investigators were — their intelligence and their investigative efforts identified essentially what are two bad cops,” said retired FBI Special Agent in Charge and CEO of Risk Confident Group LLC Toni Chrabot.
Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper released a statement that reads:
“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.”