BRUNSWICK, GA: A former Georgia state prison guard awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to her role in a widespread drug trafficking conspiracy linked to a white supremacist street gang.
Desiree M. Briley, 26, of McRae-Helena, Ga., faces up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute, and to Distribute, Methamphetamine, said Jill E. Steinberg, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. Briley was a Georgia state corrections officer with the rank of sergeant when arrested as part of Operation Ghost Busted in January 2023.
“Desiree Briley played a key role in enabling members of the Ghost Face Gangsters to operate a massive drug trafficking operation inside and outside Georgia’s prison system,” said U.S. Attorney Steinberg. “Her actions compromised the security of the facility she was sworn to protect, and threatened the safety of every person in the community where this conspiracy distributed illegal drugs.”
Operation Ghost Busted, announced with the January unsealing of the indictment in USA v. Alvarez, et al., is an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces investigation, led by 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.
Over a more than two-year period, the investigation identified a sprawling drug trafficking network operating in south Georgia counties including Glynn, Pierce, Camden, Wayne, Treutlen, McIntosh, Toombs, Telfair, Dodge, and Ware. The conspiracy operated inside and outside state prison facilities with assistance from Briley, who worked with an inmate indicted as part of the conspiracy: James D. NeSmith, 25, who currently is serving a life sentence for murder at Telfair State Prison. Including Briley and NeSmith, 76 defendants were indicted on federal charges as part of Operation Ghost Busted.
As noted during her plea hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood, at the time of her arrest, Briley was attending training to become a canine handler and then would have been in a position to further allow contraband in prisons.
Sentencing for Briley will be scheduled before Judge Wood after completion of a pre-sentence investigation by U.S. Probation Services.
“Briley betrayed the trust placed in her by the Georgia state prison system through her illegal and potentially dangerous activity,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “This extensive investigation proves that the FBI will not tolerate public corruption, especially by fellow law enforcement officials who choose their own personal gains over protecting the people they were sworn to protect.”
“This operation has dismantled a serious criminal enterprise which funneled guns and drugs into our communities,” said ATF Assistant Special Agent in Charge Beau Kolodka “ATF and its law enforcement partners acted quickly and judiciously on information developed during this long investigation. The safety of the public is at the core of ATF’s mission and we stand at the front line eradicating violent crime from our streets.”
“Illegal activity being carried out by prison staff will not be tolerated,” said Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Michael Register. “This guard is being held accountable for her role in facilitating drug trafficking behind the wire. We are committed to working with our local, state, and federal partners to investigate drug trafficking and smuggling and bring these offenders to justice.”
“We maintain a zero-tolerance policy for individuals who choose to bring discredit to the Georgia Department of Corrections and pose a threat to the safety of the public and the operations of our facilities,” said Tyrone Oliver, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Corrections. “We appreciate the support of our federal partners in ensuring that justice will be served, and we are proud of our agents who were diligent in working this case to help stop the introduction of dangerous contraband into one of our facilities.”
The case 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; and sheriff’s offices from Glynn, 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.