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Press Release

Key figure in Operation Ghost Busted sentenced to nearly 30 years in prison in drug trafficking conspiracy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Georgia
Large-scale meth dealer funneled drugs into south Georgia

BRUNSWICK, GA:  A Glynn County, Ga., woman who was a large-scale meth trafficker and also worked with a corrupt guard to smuggle drugs into prison has been sentenced to nearly 30 years in federal prison.

Rachael P. Byrd, a/k/a “Byrd is the Word,” 26, of Waverly, Ga., was sentenced to 324 months in 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. U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood also ordered Byrd to serve five years of supervised release upon completion of her prison term. There is no parole in the federal system.

“Rachael Byrd provided a pipeline from an Atlanta methamphetamine supplier to a corrupt prison guard, and to the conspiracy’s leader inside prison walls,” said U.S. Attorney Steinberg. “She fueled meth addiction in communities throughout south Georgia, and this substantial sentence holds her accountable.”

Operation Ghost Busted, unsealed in January 2023 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.

Byrd served as a leader in the drug trafficking organization, transporting and distributing multiple kilos of meth from an Atlanta-area supplier to other distributors and street-level dealers in south Georgia. She served as the outside link to her boyfriend, James D. NeSmith, 26, who was an inmate serving a life sentence for murder in Telfair State Prison, relaying his instructions to others in the conspiracy. Byrd also supplied meth to former prison guard Desiree M. Briley, 26, of McRae-Helena, Ga., who smuggled the drugs to NeSmith in prison.

NeSmith was sentenced to life in federal prison after pleading guilty, and Briley was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

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. Before their indictment in Operation Ghost Busted, the defendants in the case had a combined total of more than 245 prior felony convictions.

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.

“Byrd helped to lead a major drug trafficking organization that was responsible for plaguing the streets of our communities with drugs and crime, and she learned the fate for her corruptions,” said Will Clarke, Senior Supervisory Resident Agent of FBI Atlanta’s Brunswick Office. “This significant sentence is the result of the hard work and coordination of our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners working to bring illegal drug trafficking to an end in Georgia.”

“The sentencing of Rachael Byrd is yet another strike against the powerful and violent drug trafficking organizations whose reach stretches across international borders and directly threatens our communities in the United States,” said Beau Kolodka, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “ATF will continue to work together with our law enforcement partners on both sides of the border to pursue those who threaten our communities through the smuggling and distribution of illegal and dangerous drugs.”

“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. 


Barry L. Paschal, Public Affairs Officer: 912-652-4422

Updated January 22, 2024

Drug Trafficking
Firearms Offenses
Public Corruption
Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 04-24