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An incarcerated leader in a massive, gang-related drug trafficking conspiracy has been sentenced to life in federal prison after pleading guilty to charges brought in the largest-ever indictment in the Southern District of Georgia.
James D. NeSmith, a/k/a "DG," 26, an inmate serving life in prison for murder at Telfair State Prison, was sentenced to a consecutive term of life in federal prison after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute, and to Distribute, 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine, said Jill E. Steinberg, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. NeSmith's federal sentence would begin if he is released from state custody, and U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood ordered that he would be housed at a facility no less than 500 miles from his Brunswick residence.
"James NeSmith's sentence and others in this case represent significant milestones in this effort to dismantle a major drug trafficking operation in south Georgia," said U.S. Attorney Steinberg. "With our law enforcement partners, we will continue to disrupt traffickers as they distribute deadly, addictive drugs and endanger the safety of our communities and prison facilities."
Operation Ghost Busted, unsealed in January as USA v. Alvarez et al., charged 76 defendants with involvement in a drug trafficking conspiracy – linked to the white supremacist Ghost Face Gangsters – that distributed large amounts of high-grade methamphetamine, along with fentanyl, heroin, and alprazolam in the greater Glynn County area. Nearly 70 of the defendants have been sentenced or await sentencing after entering guilty pleas in U.S. District Court, while the remainder await further court proceedings and are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.
For more than two years, investigators from the FBI Coastal Georgia Violent Gang Task Force, the Glynn County Police Department, the Brunswick Police Department, the Glynn County Sheriff's Office, and the Camden County Sheriff's Office collaborated with multiple federal, state and local agencies to identify a sprawling drug trafficking network operating in multiple south Georgia counties. The network operated inside and outside Georgia prisons, coordinated by members of the Ghost Face Gangsters working with affiliates of other criminal street gangs including the Aryan Brotherhood, Bloods, and Gangster Disciples. NeSmith is a member of the Gangster Disciples.
Key figures adjudicated in Operation Ghost Busted include:
- Desiree M. Briley, 26, of McRae-Helena, Ga., sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute, and to Distribute, Methamphetamine. Briley was a guard at Telfair State Prison where she helped move contraband into the facility at NeSmith's direction.
- John E. Harrison, 26, of Brunswick, sentenced to 190 months in prison after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute 5 Grams or More of Methamphetamine. Harrison acted with others as a courier and drug distributor in the conspiracy.
- Charles W. Walrath, a/k/a "Boomer," 52, of Brunswick, sentenced to 144 months in prison after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute Methamphetamine and Fentanyl. Walrath was identified as a mid-level drug distributor in the conspiracy.
- Clinton Taylor, 34, of Brunswick, sentenced to 105 months in prison after pleading guilty to Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon. Taylor, who illegally possessed an SKS assault-style rifle, has two prior convictions for illegal firearms possession, and faces state charges related to a machete attack on a Brunswick resident.
- Marissa D. Davis, 32, of Brunswick, sentenced to 97 months in prison after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute Methamphetamine and Fentanyl. Davis worked with Walrath and others as an illegal drug distributor.
- Wendell McClain, 35, of Brunswick, sentenced to 96 months in prison after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute Methamphetamine.
- Rachael P. Byrd, a/k/a "Byrd is the Word," 26, of Brunswick, awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute, and to Distribute, 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine. Byrd served as a leader in the drug trafficking organization, relaying instructions from her boyfriend James NeSmith and distributing multiple kilos of methamphetamine to distributors and dozens of street-level dealers, and delivering contraband to Briley for delivery to NeSmith in prison.
NeSmith's mother and sister also are being prosecuted for participation in the conspiracy. Authorities also are seeking a fugitive, David D. Young, a/k/a "Khaos," of Hortense, Ga., on multiple federal charges.
"Gangs that operate out of our prison systems not only bring drugs and violence into prison facilities – they also breed drug-fueled violence in our communities," said Will Clarke, Supervisory Senior Resident Agent of FBI Atlanta's Savannah Office. "We are committed to dismantling violent gangs like the Ghost Face Gangsters and holding their members and those who conspire with them accountable for criminal conduct."
"This action serves as a textbook example of the impact that can be achieved when we blend our investigative resources with our state and local partners as we continue to aggressively dismantle major drug trafficking that plagues our communities," said Beau Kolodka, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. "ATF remains committed to targeting violent offenders and dismantling their criminal organizations."
"Illegal drugs are dangerous and threaten the safety of Georgia communities," said Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Chris Hosey. "The GBI is committed to working with our local and federal partners to investigate the horrific crimes connected to criminal street gangs."
Operation Ghost Busted was investigated under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF). OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach.
Agencies involved in the investigation include the FBI Coastal Georgia Violent Gang Task Force; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the U.S. Marshals Service; the Georgia Bureau of Investigation; the Georgia Department of Corrections; the Georgia Department of Community Supervision; the Glynn County Police Department; the Brunswick Police Department; the Glynn County Sheriff's Office; and sheriff's offices from Pierce, Camden, Wayne, Treutlen, McIntosh, Toombs, Telfair, Dodge, and Ware counties. The case is being prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer J. Kirkland and Criminal Division Deputy Chief E. Greg Gilluly Jr.
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