Former Florida Highway Patrol trooper Joshua Earrey. | News4JaxFormer Florida Highway Patrol trooper Joshua Earrey. | News4Jax
Former Florida Highway Patrol trooper Joshua Earrey. | News4Jax

Ex-trooper faces prison for drugs, firearms and fraud

Published on April 8, 2024 at 4:15 pm

Former Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Joshua Grady Earrey has pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute narcotics, possession of firearms and ammunition, and fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Meanwhile, a companion investigation into a former Nassau County sheriff’s sergeant who served on the same Drug Enforcement Administration task force as Earrey remains under investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. No final court dates have been set.

Jacksonville Today thanks our sponsors. Become one.

Earrey, 45, faces a maximum of 60 years in federal prison on these offenses, including a mandatory sentence of at least five years for the drug distribution charge, prosecutors said. He also must forfeit the firearms and ammunition involved in these offenses, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Earrey was working as an FHP task force officer with the DEA when he and an unidentified co-conspirator engaged in “widespread and extensive corrupt activity” between 2017 and 2023, a news release said. That included the theft of money and illegal drugs that had been seized as evidence during criminal investigations, as well as providing those drugs to others to distribute on his behalf, the release said. Earrey also extorted or accepted cash from drug dealers in exchange for protecting them from arrest, it states.

Earrey and his co-conspirator also stole more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana from evidence, then covered it up by submitting falsified paperwork showing that it had been destroyed, the news release said.

Article continues below

Jacksonville Today thanks our sponsors. Become one.

Earrey, who was addicted to prescription opiates, also used his “corrupt activities” to obtain illegal drugs for his own use, prosecutors said. At one point, he traded cases of ammunition diverted from the Highway Patrol to a convicted murderer in exchange for oxycodone, records state.

Earrey, a trooper for 22 years, was named Trooper of the Year in 2009 by the Florida Cabinet when he was assigned to FHP’s Contraband Interdiction Program as a K-9 handler in Troop G in Jacksonville. He was fired after his arrest.

Former Nassau County sheriff’s Sgt. James Darrell Hickox of Callahan. | News4Jax

Former Nassau County sheriff’s Sgt. James Darrell Hickox of Callahan was arrested the same day as Earrey on a charge of intent to distribute controlled substances. Prosecutors confirm now that the two cases are connected.

At the time, Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper said he was “shocked, disgusted and beyond angry” about the arrest of Hickox, a 17-year department veteran.

The investigation into Hickox began in August 2022, when the FBI interviewed a man arrested for drug-related offenses who said he had information about “criminal activity” that happened while Hickox supervised him as a confidential informant, a federal complaint said. The informant also was supervised by another law enforcement officer, who was not identified in Hickox’s criminal complaint.

The informant said Hickox and the other officer stole seized drugs and cash and conspired to use controlled substances, the complaint said. The informant said he and another “cooperating defendant” were allowed to keep some of the drugs and money found during law enforcement searches.

Agents served a federal search warrant just over a year ago and found substances that tested positive for crack cocaine in Hickox’s garage, plus a loaded handgun and a bag containing 44 grams of fentanyl, the complaint said.

Hickox’s case is still pending, but if he is convicted, he also faces up to 40 years in federal prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

author image Reporter, WJCT News 89.9 email Dan Scanlan is a veteran journalist with almost 40 years of experience in radio, television, and print reporting. He has worked at various stations in the Northeast and Jacksonville. Prior to joining the WJCT News team, Dan spent 34 years at The Florida Times-Union as a police and current affairs reporter.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.