More than two dozen illegal guns off street after gun traffic ring busted

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Three people from Lackwanna County have been arrested in connection with a gun trafficking ring.

This is all 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 this year-long investigation.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro says this put a serious dent in the gun trafficking business but this is not the end.

“Gun violence is on the rise and gang activity is on the rise unfortunately,” Lackawanna County District Attorney Mark Powell said.

Lackawanna County is seeing an increase in gun arrests. Just last September “Operation Grabbing Straws” took dozens of illegal firearms off the street

“And what these folks are doing are making legal purchases with individuals to purchase the guns but then transferring them illegally if they’re using straw agents,” Powell said.

Now more arrests are made that stem from an investigation into a new gun trafficking ring. On Wednesday Shapiro announced the arrest of Mitchell Bethea, Gregory Dehart and Samantha Piasecki for their roles in the illegal trafficking of firearms.

“It’s difficult to detect because there is a legal purchase,” Powell said.

Investigators say the ring organized and made straw purchases on behalf of Bethea and his associates who could not legally own a firearm.

“After he did that, he then got the guns from them so that’s the first illegal conduct, the straw purchase, and then he sold them illegally as part of a gun trafficking network that spread through other states as well,” Shapiro said.

Although these three arrests are unrelated to “Operation Grabbing Straws”, the investigations are similar in nature.

“This was a significant operation and this was a significant victory for public safety,” Shapiro said.

Schapiro and Powell say if stores or residents see anything unusual, report it.

“This is clearly a trend that has been going on but law enforcement is aware of it. We’re on it and we will prosecute these crimes vigorously,” Powell said.

This case is being prosecuted by the Lackawanna County District’s Attorney office. The investigation was a group effort spearheaded by the Attorney General’s office, including local law enforcement and federal agents.

The investigation is ongoing.

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