SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), a former prison guard admitted to participating in a drug trafficking operation in south Georgia that included smuggling contraband to inmates.
Jessica Azaelae Burnett, a/k/a “The Madam,” 41, of Douglas, Ga., pled guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute Methamphetamine and Marijuana.
Burnett was a sergeant and a senior guard with CoreCivic, the private prison company that operates Coffee County Correctional Facility.
Officials say Burnett admitted to working with other conspirators in distribution of methamphetamine and marijuana. Her role in the conspiracy included smuggling cell phones, drugs and other contraband into the state prison.
The DOJ says Burnett is one of 48 defendants indicted in Operation Sandy Bottom.
Operation Sandy Bottom was an investigation led by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, a multi-agency operation that identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States.
Altogether, the indictment charged the 48 defendants with a total of 129 felonies.
Among Burnett’s fellow conspirators, Idalis Qua Dazia Harrell, 24, of Douglas.
Harrell is also a former guard at Coffee County Correctional Facility. Harrell pled guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute Methamphetamine and Marijuana.
In 2018, the Coffee County Sheriff’s Office Drug Unit requested the assistance of the FBI and the Coastal Georgia Violent Gang Task Force in their investigation into violence and drug activity in the Sand Ridge neighborhood of Douglas.
The investigation uncovered multiple “trap houses” that stored and distributed illegal drugs, primarily methamphetamine.
Investigators say leaders of the Gangster Disciples used the “trap houses” to distribute drugs throughout Coffee, Bacon, Emanuel, Jeff Davis, Pierce and Wheeler counties, along with other parts of Georgia.
Investigators infiltrated the operation, intercepting multiple kilograms of drugs and nearly two dozen illegally possessed firearms, along with seven vehicles and more than $12,000 in cash identified as drug-trafficking proceeds.
Cell phones were used by some of the conspirators in Operation Sandy Bottom to facilitate drug trafficking throughout south Georgia from inside the state prison system.
Burnett awaits sentencing. She faces a statutory penalty of up to 20 years in prison.