HARRISBURG – Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced the arrest of three Lackawanna County residents who have been charged with the illegal trafficking of firearms.
“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,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “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.”
Mitchell Bethea, Gregory Dehart, and Samantha Piasecki have been arrested for their roles in the leadership and operation of a gun trafficking ring. The ring organized and made straw purchases on behalf of Bethea and his associates who could not legally own a firearm.
After Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) agents linked a crime gun recovered in Baltimore, MD, to Dehart, it was discovered that Dehart purchased multiple firearms in a short amount of time in and around Scranton. Another crime gun purchased by Dehart was found recovered in New York City. Due to the nature of the purchases, the make and model of the guns and the short time to recovery, agents opened an interstate gun trafficking investigation. This investigation uncovered the straw purchase of 28 guns in a 13-month period by Dehart and his girlfriend Piasecki.
“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.”
Agents from the Office of Attorney General and the ATF discovered Bethea, who is a convicted felon and cannot legally purchase or carry firearms, coordinated illegal firearms purchases and trafficked them over state lines. Individuals interested in buying firearms illegally would load money into an account, or onto a card, to which Bethea had access. Bethea would then give the card to Dehart, who would use it at a convenience store to retrieve the cash, which he would then use to purchase firearms at a gun dealer. Dehart would bring the guns back to Bethea’s Lackawanna County residence, where Dehart would then give the firearms to the person purchasing the gun from Bethea.
Gregory Dehart was arrested by agents from the Office of Attorney General Gun Violence Section and the ATF and charged on January 6, 2021, for making 27 straw purchases over a 13-month period. Piasecki was arrested and charged on January 11, 2021, with straw purchasing a firearm for Dehart. Bethea, the leader of the trafficking ring, was arrested on January 25, 2021, and charged with trafficking four of the firearms that Dehart straw purchased.
Mitchell Bethea was charged with four counts of illegal sale/transfer of firearms, four counts of tampering with public records, four counts of persons not to possess firearms, two counts of criminal use of communication facility, and four counts of unsworn falsification to authorities. Bail was set at $500,000.
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.
This case is being prosecuted by the Lackawanna County District Attorney. This investigation was conducted in partnership with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and Lackawanna County Detectives. All charges discussed are accusations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
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