Originally focused on the theft of motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles, a 10-month investigation has resulted in charges for several alleged members of a Camden-based criminal ring connected to gun trafficking, drug distribution and stolen vehicles.

Acting Attorney General Andrew Bruck on Thursday announced the indictment of 11 individuals as a result of "Operation Grab and Go."

All 11 are charged with conspiring to steal, receive, and traffic stolen motorcycles and ATVs. Nine are charged with first-degree racketeering. During the course of the investigation, though, detectives developed information that suggested that a number of the alleged criminals, including a set of siblings, were involved in more than just vehicle theft.

Through the investigation, 20 illegal firearms were seized, including eight "ghost guns," which are designed to be untraceable should they be used during a crime. Authorities also seized two illegal large-capacity magazines.

"This operation is part of our ongoing effort to dismantle the organizations that funnel illegal firearms into this state and into this city," Bruck said. "We have seen how weapons of war are bloodying the streets of Camden, and we're committed to cutting off the supply lines."

Bruck noted that New Jersey law enforcement agencies have recovered nearly 200 illegal ghost guns across the state over the past year. Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law in 2018 that makes it a crime to buy, manufacture, possess or sell these guns in the Garden State.

Defendants charged in connection with the alleged weapons trafficking include:

  • Lamar Soto, 28, of Camden (alleged leader of the criminal ring)
  • Jirman Soto, 25, of Camden (Lamar's brother)
  • Selena Soto, 24, of Camden (Lamar's sister)
  • Ruben Zayas, 19, of Camden

Lamar Soto, Jirman Soto, Zayas, and Wendell Bethea, 32, of Sicklerville, also are charged with conspiring to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine.

The remaining defendants are:

  • Julio Arroyo, 33, of Camden
  • Genaro Molina, 23, of Camden
  • Ashley Petruchelli, 36, of Camden
  • Luis Rivera, 38, of Camden
  • Pedro Luciano, 37, of Camden
  • Alberto Lopez, 29, of Camden

As of Thursday afternoon, Luciano was still wanted by authorities. The other defendants were arrested in June — Lamar Soto and Jirman Soto are detained pending trial.

The investigation was led by the NJSP Motor Vehicle Crimes South Unit and the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau.

"The success of an operation of this magnitude can only be made possible through intelligence-led policing, collaboration, and information sharing among our local, county, state, and federal law enforcement partners," said Col. Patrick Callahan, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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.