Three Lackawanna County residents arrested in connection to gun trafficking ring

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) —  Three people from Lackawanna County have been arrested in connection with a gun trafficking ring, a part of a statewide effort to curb the sale of illegal guns in the area.

More than two dozen illegal guns have been taken off the streets during the year-long investigation. Attorney General Josh Shapiro says this put a serious dent into the straw purchasing crime but it is not the end.

“Getting 28 of these guns out of the hands of criminals and off our street we hope will save lives,” Shapiro said.

On Wednesday, the office of the Attorney General announced the arrest of Mitchell Bethea, Gregory Dehart and Samantha Piasecki for their roles in the illegal trafficking of firearms. The ring allegedly “organized and made” straw purchases on behalf of Bethea and his associates who could not legally own a firearm.

“He would send people in to buy guns for him. That’s a straw purchase, for you to send someone who can legally buy a gun in to purchase one,” Shapiro said.

Investigators say it all happened in a Scranton home where Bethea, a convicted felon, lived. He allegedly coordinated illegal firearms purchases and trafficked them over state lines. He is currently in jail with bail set at $500,000.

Shapiro tells Eyewitness News that the investigation began 13 months ago when a gun used in a crime was recovered in Baltimore, Maryland and linked to Gregory Dehart. Investigators discovered Dehart purchased multiple firearms in a short amount of time in and around Scranton.

When another gun purchased by Dehart was recovered during a crime in New York City, agents opened an interstate gun trafficking investigation.

“We also hope it sends a clear message that we will not tolerate straw purchasing and we will shut down gun trafficking rings wherever we find it,” Shapiro said.

The 28 guns officials uncovered were pistols, mostly 9 mm semi-automatics, some of which were allegedly trafficked out of Bethea’s home.

Those that live and work nearby are shocked of the news and say there is more to be done.

“I am… I am very surprised. Very, very surprised,” Kathy Gilgallon who lives in the area said. “Are you ever going to stop it? Unfortunately, I don’t think so because there are always going to be people selling it to criminals who need them/want them.”

“There’s more to be done, crime watch… If you have crime watch it’s good to have, but there’s not enough cops out there to do everything,” Joseph Frank, a nearby employee said.

The investigation is ongoing. The case is being prosecuted by the Lackawanna County District Attorney Mark Powell.

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