Digital Exclusive: PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro discusses Lackawanna County gun trafficking bust

Digital Exclusive

SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Three Lackawanna County residents have been arrested for operating and leading an alleged gun trafficking ring, Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced.

“Gun traffickers are behind the senseless violence that too many of our communities live with every day, and taking down networks like this is a top priority of my office,” Shapiro said. “Our partnership with the ATF and these arrests show that local, state and federal law enforcement are working together to stop the scourge of gun violence in Pennsylvania. We will continue to hold anyone accountable who thinks they can get away with the illegal purchasing and trafficking of deadly weapons.”

According to police paperwork, a confidential source informed authorities of the ring. The source said he started selling firearms to people prohibited from owning them in and around Lackawanna County in 2019. He reportedly identified one of his customers as Mitchell Bethea, of Scranton.

Police say Bethea admitted to buying the illegal firearms, identified himself as a member of the “Crips” gang and said he acted as a middleman for others that could not legally own guns.

“Bethea knew private transfers of handguns and providing false information on documents to acquire firearms for someone else is unlawful,” his arrest affidavit reads in part, “However he said that was the only way some people get their guns.”

Bethea is charged with several felonies including the sale or transfer of firearms, tampering with public records and criminal use of a communication facility.

As part of the same investigation, the Office of the Attorney General says Gregory Dehart and his girlfriend Samantha Piasecki, both of Scranton, bought firearms on behalf of Bethea and his associates. Officials say they have uncovered the straw purchases of 28 guns in just over a year by the pair.

“A primary focus of ATF’s mission is to prevent violent crime by disrupting and dismantling firearms trafficking networks,” said Matthew Varisco, Special Agent in charge of ATF’s Philadelphia Field Division. “Ensuring that firearms traffickers are aggressively investigated and swiftly brought to justice is a top priority for the Philadelphia Field Division. We vow to continue our partnership with the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General and our other local, state and federal partners to combat firearms trafficking.”

Officials alleged that customers of Bethea would give him money through an account or card which he could access. The card would then be given to Dehart who retrieved cash and used it to purchase a firearm at a gun dealer. Guns would then be brought back to Bethea’s residence where Dehart would give the firearms to the person purchasing it.

Guns allegedly bought by Dehart and Piasecki were uncovered by detectives in Baltimore, Maryland and New York City.

Gregory Dehart was charged for 27 counts of straw purchasing firearms, some of which included the sales to Bethea’s associates.

Samantha Piasecki was charged with one count of illegal sale or transfer of a firearm.

The confidential source is facing 27 charges including the sale or transfer of firearms, unsworn falsification to authorities and tampering with evidence.

The case is being prosecuted by the Lackawanna County District Attorney.

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