Lead defendant in Richmond County meth-trafficking conspiracy sentenced to more than 20 years in federal prison | USAO-SDGA

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AUGUSTA, GA:  A Georgia prison inmate who led an Augusta-area methamphetamine-trafficking ring has been sentenced to more than two decades in federal prison.

Magnum Jelani Neely, 38, of Millen, Ga., an inmate at Dooly State Prison, was sentenced to 278 months in federal prison after previously pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute, and to Distribute, 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine, said David H. Estes, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. U.S. District Court Chief Judge J. Randal Hall also ordered Neely to pay a $2,500 fine and to serve five years of supervised release upon completion of his prison term. There is no parole in the federal system.

“Magnum Neely orchestrated a large-scale meth distribution operation from behind bars while serving a 10-year state sentence for violent crime,” said U.S. Attorney Estes. “This investigation dismantled that drug-trafficking operation, and substantial federal sentences hold these drug dealers accountable.”

As described in court documents and testimony, agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in November 2021 joined investigators from the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office and the Burke County Sheriff’s Office in identifying Neely as coordinating a methamphetamine trafficking operation from inside prison. Neely used contraband cell phones to contact couriers outside prison to deliver drugs to buyers both inside and outside Georgia prisons. The Georgia Department of Corrections assisted in the investigation, and Neely and three co-conspirators were indicted in April 2022. All four defendants admitted guilt.

The three co-conspirators include:

  • Patricia Gregory, 45, of Augusta, was sentenced to 87 months in prison and fined $2,000 after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute, and to Distribute, 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine;
  • Fanesia Smith, 39, of Augusta, was sentenced to 48 months in prison after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute, and to Distribute, 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine; and,
  • Yvonne Smith, 58, of Augusta – mother of Fanesia Smith – awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to Misprision of a Felony for knowing of, and helping to conceal, the criminal activity of the conspiracy.

“DEA is fully committed to tirelessly pursuing criminals who sell drugs, whether they’re selling them on the streets or from inside a prison,” said the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division Robert J. Murphy.

“We appreciate the support of our local and federal partners in ensuring that justice will be served on this individual for his role in jeopardizing the safe operations of our facilities, and most importantly, the safety of the public,” said Georgia Department of Corrections Commissioner Tyrone Oliver.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, the Burke County Sheriff’s Office, and the Georgia Department of Corrections, and prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremiah L. Johnson



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