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He Ran a Meth Ring from Prison. Now, He Joins 3 Augusta Women in Pleading Guilty

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All four defendants in an Augusta meth-trafficking ring await sentencing now that the conspiracy’s lead defendant has admitted guilt.

Magnum Jelani Neely, 38, of Millen, Ga., an inmate at Dooly State Prison, awaits sentencing after 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.

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,” said U.S. Attorney Estes. “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 as coordinating a methamphetamine trafficking operation from inside 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 include:

  • 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;
Patricia Gregory 44 of Augusta Cocaine meth trafficking
Patricia Gregory
  • 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,
Fanesia Smith 32 of Augusta Disorderly conduct
Fanesia Smith (2015 mug)
  • 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.(No mug available)

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.

“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.

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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Greg Rickabaugh
Greg Rickabaugh
Greg Rickabaugh is an award-winning crime reporter in the Augusta-Aiken area with experience writing for The Augusta Chronicle, The Augusta Press and serving as publisher of The Jail Report. Rickabaugh is a 1994 graduate of the University of South Carolina and has appeared on several crime documentaries on the Investigation Discovery channel.
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