Authorities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania teamed up with federal authorities to take down what they say was a Philadelphia-based gun trafficking ring that was funneling weapons and drugs to Camden.

According to New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, “Operation Zombie” resulted in the seizure of 36 guns, including AK-47 rifles and an Uzi sub-machine gun, as well as 14,000 doses of methamphetamines.

During a news conference in Camden on Monday, he said one of the recovered weapons, a semi-automatic rifle allegedly sold by the ring in December, as been identified as the gun used in the Oct. 20 murder of 2-year old Nikolette Rivera, who was shot and killed while being held by her mother in their home on North Water Street in Philadelphia.

Two men had previously been arrested and charged in the case, but the gun used in the shooting had not been recovered at the time. The men were allegedly trying to kill the child’s father.

Grewal said the takedown of the gun trafficking ring was made possible by “a new Pennsylvania-New Jersey gun trafficking initiative, a collaborative law enforcement effort to share intelligence, to target gun crimes that affect both of our states.”

He said the two states will work together to stop gun trafficking “by sharing trace information, by sharing intelligence, when you bring law enforcement agencies from across the (Delaware) River to sit down together and share that intelligence about the targets involved in these types of crimes.”

Grewal said the initiative will involve planned sit-down meetings as well as fluid information sharing in real time.

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“All of us are committed to doing everything in our power to stop the proliferation of illegal guns and drugs into our communities," he said.

Grewal added “our residents shouldn’t have to live in fear that they’ll be caught or killed in crossfire as they go to the store or to visit a neighbor, or that their children will be shot as they walk to school or play on a sidewalk.”

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He said Philadelphia and Camden in many ways represent a single metropolitan area and “criminals don’t halt their criminal activities at the Delaware River, and we must work together across our boarders to stop them.”

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said so far this year 35 residents of Philadelphia have been killed by gun violence.

“These shootings are corroding the souls of our cities and fracturing families for the rest of their lives, and we shouldn’t stand for that as a society,” he said.

Another gun that was seized in the takedown, a 9 mm handgun that was allegedly sold by the ring, has been linked to a shooting in Philadelphia last September, when no one was injured, the law enforcement authorities say.

“Operation Zombie” was a joint investigation by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, including the Division of Criminal Justice and the New Jersey State Police, along with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Philadelphia Gun Violence Task Force, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Philadelphia Police Department.

The New Jersey Attorney General’s office announced the following people were arrested beginning late Wednesday, Jan. 22, or are pending arrest:

  • Robert Crosley III, 32, aka “Zombie,” of Philadelphia, who allegedly managed the gun trafficking conspiracy was arrested on the night of Jan. 22 in Camden.
  • Matthew Zoba, 38, of Philadelphia, who allegedly managed the drug trafficking conspiracy, was arrested on the morning of Jan. 23 in Philadelphia.
  • Victoria Zipf, 33, of Philadelphia, Zoba’s girlfriend, who allegedly acted as a straw purchaser and assisted in gun and drug sales, was rrested on the morning of Jan. 23 in Philadelphia.
  • Michael Snyder, 44, of Philadelphia, who allegedly acted as a straw purchaser and assisted in gun and drug sales was charged  and is pending arrest.
  • Yuri Lyubinskiy, 39, of Philadelphia, who allegedly assisted in gun and drug sales. Lyubinskiy was charge and is pending arrest.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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