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Millen man pleads guilty to meth trafficking conspiracy
Magnum Jelani Neely
Magnum Jelani Neely

A Millen man is awaiting sentencing for his role in an Augusta methamphetamine-trafficking ring that officials say he ran from a prison cell at Dooly State Prison in Unadilla.

Magnum Jelani Neely of Millen was considered the conspiracy’s lead defendant. He plead guilty Friday 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. Neely’s guilty plea subjects him to a minimum statutory sentence of 10 years in prison, up to life, along with substantial financial penalties and a minimum of five years of supervised release after completion of any prison term. There is no parole in the federal system.

“With substantial assistance from co-conspirators, Neely was able to direct a high volume of meth distribution even as he served a 10-year state sentence for violent crime,” Estes said. “This investigation shut down his operation, and federal sentences will ensure these traffickers are held accountable for their crimes.”

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, 38, as coordinating a methamphetamine trafficking operation from inside his cell at Dooly State Prison.

Neely used contraband cell phones to contact couriers outside prison to deliver drugs to buyers.

The Georgia Department of Corrections assisted in the investigation, and Neely and three co-conspirators were indicted in April 2022.

The three co-conspirators are:

Patricia Gregory, 45, of Augusta, awaits sentencing 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, awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute, and to Distribute, 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine; and,

Yvonne Smith, 57, of Augusta – mother of Fanesia Smith – faces a statutory sentence of up to three years in prison after pleading guilty to Misprision of a Felony for knowing of, and helping to conceal, the criminal activity of the conspiracy.

Each of the defendants will be sentenced by U.S. District Court Chief Judge J. Randal Hall after completion of a pre-sentence investigation by U.S. Probation Services.

“(Neely was) the ringleader of a once-thriving methamphetamine ring profited by spreading this insidious poison throughout Richmond County and elsewhere, all while serving a prison sentence,” said Robert J. Murphy, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division. “But DEA and its law enforcement partners are committed to holding criminals accountable, no matter whether they're locked up or on the streets.” 

“Any type of criminal activity perpetrated from behind the walls of our facilities will not be tolerated, and we appreciate the support and assistance of our law enforcement partners on every level, in our efforts to see that justice is being served on those who pose a threat to the safety of the public and the operations of our facilities,” said Georgi Department of Corrections Commissioner Timothy C. Ward. 

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