Nikolette Rivera

Officials Dismantle Gun Ring That Sold Weapon Used in Toddler’s Murder

Officials announced the takedown of a major Philadelphia-based gun trafficking ring that allegedly sold the weapon used in the deadly shooting of a 2-year-old girl

What to Know

  • Officials announced the takedown of a major Philadelphia-based gun trafficking ring that allegedly sold the weapon used in the deadly shooting of a 2-year-old girl.
  • Three people were arrested while dozens of weapons and drugs were seized, investigators said.
  • In addition to the arrests, AG Grewal and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro also announced a new PA/NJ Gun Trafficking Initiative to prevent interstate gun trafficking and solve gun crimes.

Officials announced the takedown of a major Philadelphia-based gun trafficking ring that allegedly sold the weapon used in the deadly shooting of a 2-year-old girl.

"Operation Zombie," a joint investigation from both New Jersey and Pennsylvania state and federal law enforcement agencies, led to the recovery of 36 guns, more than 20 ounces of methamphetamine and multiple arrests.

“By working together to dismantle rings like this one, we are saving lives and improving the safety of all our communities," New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said. "And by expanding our interstate collaborations, we can build on today’s efforts to further tackle the iron pipeline of illegal guns."

Between March 2019 and January 2020, the ring sold 16 guns in the Camden area, including six military-style rifles, 10 handguns and two illegal large capacity magazines, investigators said. The ring also sold approximately 12 ounces of methamphetamine, according to police.

Another 20 guns were seized during arrests and searches last week – including 10 handguns, six shotguns, three military-style rifles, and an Uzi – along with a large-capacity magazine, three partial sticks of dynamite, nearly nine ounces of methamphetamine, 60 wax folds of heroin, over 80 marijuana plants, and a small amount of crack cocaine, investigators said.

Police said 32-year-old Robert Crosley III, aka "Zombie," as well as 38-year-old Matthew Zoba, both managed the gun ring.

Crosley allegedly obtained the weapons by paying "straw purchasers" to buy guns at dealerships and gun shows in Pennsylvania. He also made arrangements to sell guns as well as methamphetamine by texting photos to the purchasers, investigators said.

Zoba also allegedly helped arrange deals for guns and drugs with help from his girlfriend, 33-year-old Victoria Zipf, 44-year-old Michael Snyder and 39-year-old Yuri Lyubinskiy, police said. Zipf and Snyder also allegedly acted as straw purchasers.

All five suspects are from Philadelphia.

Crosley was arrested in Camden on Jan. 22 after arriving to sell guns and drugs, according to investigators. He was allegedly in possession of multiple weapons, including an AR-15 rifle, three shotguns and a sawed-off shotgun.

Zoba and Zipf were both arrested on Jan. 23 in Philadelphia. Arrest warrants were issued for Snyder and Lyubinskiy.

Investigators identified a semi-automatic rifle sold by the ring in December as the same weapon used in the murder of 2-year-old Nikolette Rivera on Oct. 20, 2019.

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Rivera was shot while her mother held her in her arms in their home along the 3300 block of North Water Street in Philadelphia. Rivera's mother and a contractor working inside the house were seriously wounded. The gunmen were targeting Rivera's father when they shot at the home, police said.

Investigators also linked a 9mm handgun allegedly sold by the ring to a September 2019 shooting in Philadelphia in which no one was hit.

In addition to the arrests, AG Grewal and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro also announced a new PA/NJ Gun Trafficking Initiative to prevent interstate gun trafficking and solve gun crimes.

“By working together and sharing intelligence, we took 36 guns off the streets and made our communities safer," AG Shapiro said. "But this is just the start. Thanks to our new partnership, we will more effectively shut down crime gun pipelines and get firearms out of the hands of criminals who want to do harm.”

The goal of this initiative is to share information on guns used in crimes across state lines and prevent them from becoming unseen for investigators.

"Four out of five crime guns in New Jersey originate in states with weaker gun laws, with the largest number coming from Pennsylvania, and we’re going to keep working together to arrest the traffickers who put our residents and our law enforcement officers at risk,” Grewal said.

Law enforcement agencies from each state will meet to discuss potential leads on crime guns that can be pursued by the partnering agencies as part of the new initiative.

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