Inmate sentenced for leading local meth empire from behind bars

Magnum Jelani Neely
Magnum Jelani Neely(Contributed)
Published: Jan. 12, 2023 at 11:22 AM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - In addition to the state sentence a Georgia prison inmate is serving, he’ll face two decades in federal prison for leading an Augusta-area meth ring from behind bars.

Magnum Jelani Neely, 38, of Millen, 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, according to federal prosecutors.

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.

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 cellphones to contact couriers outside prison to deliver drugs to buyers both inside and outside Georgia prisons. 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.
  • 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.

“Substantial federal sentences hold these drug dealers accountable,” U.S. Attorney David Estes said.

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.