Officials with the state say eleven alleged members of a Camden-based criminal ring, "in which certain defendants allegedly sold numerous weapons, including illegal assault rifles, “ghost guns,” and large-capacity ammunition magazines," have been indicted.

Acting Attorney General Andrew Bruck says a total of 20 guns, including a "ghost" assault rifle and seven "ghost" 9mm semi-automatic handguns, were seized in "Operation Grab and Go," which was a 10-month investigation led by the New Jersey State Police.

Bruck's office says the investigation initially targeted motorcycles and ATV thefts, but it led to the discovery of an illegal weapons trafficking operation.

As part of the investigation, nearly two dozen stolen motorcycles were recovered. Several members of the ring have also been charged with distributing drugs.

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Bruck said in a statement, "We are working relentlessly to dismantle the criminal networks that funnel illegal firearms into New Jersey. Weapons of war are bloodying the streets of Camden, and we’re committed to cutting the supply lines."

Officials obtained a state grand jury indictment on Tuesday charging 28-year-old Lamar Soto, 25-year-old Jirman Soto, 24-year-old Selena Soto, and 19-year-old Ruben Zayas, all of Camden, for alleged weapons trafficking.

According to a press release,

All 11 defendants, including those four, are charged in the indictment with conspiring to steal, receive, and traffic stolen motorcycles and ATVs. And Lamar Soto, Jirman Soto, Zayas, and Wendell Bethea, 32, of Sicklerville, N.J., are charged with conspiring to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine.

Nine of the 11 defendants are charged with first-degree racketeering, including Lamar Soto, who also faces first-degree charges of promoting organized street crime, leader of a firearms trafficking network, and distribution of methamphetamine.

The other seven people indicted include the following:

  • 33-year-old Julio Arroyo of Camden
  • 23-year-old Genaro Molina of Camden
  • 36-year-old Ashley Petruchelli of Camden
  • 38-year-old Luis Rivera of Camden
  • 37-year-old Pedro Luciano of Camden
  • 32-year-old Wendell Bethea of Sicklerville
  • 29-year-old Alberto Lopez of Camden

All of the defendants, except for Luciano, who is currently wanted by law enforcement, were arrested in June.

The public is reminded that charges are accusations and all persons are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

NJ teachers and educators caught in sex crime busts

Over the past few years, state lawmakers have taken on the challenge of dealing with accused child predators among the ranks of teachers and educators.

In 2018, the so-called “pass the trash” law went into effect, requiring stricter New Jersey school background checks related to child abuse and sexual misconduct.

The follow individuals were arrested over the past several years. Some have been convicted and sentenced to prison, while others have accepted plea deals for probation.

Others cases are still pending, including some court delays amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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