San Diego Sheriff’s Dept. Captain, Lieutenant Busted for Trafficking ‘Off Roster’ Guns

California Gun Trafficking San Diego Cop

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Mazza speaks during a news conference Friday, Nov. 22, 2019, in San Diego. Federal agents have arrested former San Diego County Sheriff’s Captain Marco Garmo under charges of operating an illegal firearms trafficking business. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Carrying on in the grand tradition of California public officials such as San Francisco’s Leland Yee, a couple of San Diego County Sheriff’s Office cops have been busted for running a thriving gun trafficking business with the help of a prominent local jeweler.

The two cops were able to get their hands on guns not available to the public because of the state’s ludicrous firearm certification requirements. The enterprising SDCSD officers recognized the potential black market demand for “off roster” guns and worked to fill it.

As the AP report below details, this is just the latest example of dirty California cops illegally selling firearms only they are supposed to be “privileged” enough to own.

Former Captain Garmo allegedly sold the guns to potential contributors who might kick in cash for a future run for San Diego County Sheriff…which probably won’t happen now.

By Julie Watson and Stefanie Dazio, Associated Press

Federal agents on Friday arrested a former San Diego County sheriff’s captain accused of running a gun trafficking business, and a lieutenant with access to weapons restricted for law enforcement pleaded guilty to helping him.

The arrest of former Capt. Marco Garmo, 52, at his home was the latest in a string of cases involving current and former law enforcement officers in Southern California accused of such illegal firearm sales.

Garmo pleaded not guilty at a hearing later in the day. Prosecutors said they have not found evidence so far that any of the firearms were used in a crime or landed in the hands of a convicted criminal. However, 27 of the firearms remained missing.

In this April 13, 2016 image, Former San Diego County Sheriff’s Capt. Marco Garmo is seen in San Diego. Federal agents have arrested Garmo along with a deputy and several others in connection to gun trafficking. (Hayne Palmour IV/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP)

Prosecutors say Garmo acquired 146 weapons and sold at least 104 of them. Court documents say he was helped by sheriff’s Lt. Fred Magana, who purchased many of the “off roster” firearms, which aren’t available to the public but can be legally sold to law enforcement officers.

Magana pleaded guilty Friday in federal court in San Diego to charges of aiding Garmo’s business by making straw purchases of firearms.

Prominent San Diego jeweler Leo Hamel, a friend of Garmo, also pleaded guilty to aiding the operation. Prosecutors say he bought weapons while knowing they were illegally obtained.

Giovanni Tilotta, a federal firearms licensee and the owner of Honey Badger Firearms, remained at large after being accused of submitting falsified firearms records and selling firearms inside Garmo’s substation when he was a sheriff’s captain.

Neither Garmo nor the others could be reached Friday for comment.

Last Wednesday, two Los Angeles area police officers were convicted of making illegal gun sales, including one to a convicted felon.

In February, a former Pasadena police lieutenant was sentenced to more than a year in federal prison for illegally selling more than 100 guns.

Garmo previously told The San Diego Union-Tribune that he is a gun collector, did not have a gun business or know that he needed a federal firearms license to sell more than five guns a year.

“It was truly a hobby for me, and it just got a little out of control,” he told the newspaper.

The indictment says Garmo wanted to provide guns to people he believed could become donors and support his aspirations to run for sheriff. Prosecutors said they do not have a figure on how much money was made.

Garmo also is accused of tipping off his cousin’s marijuana dispensary to plans by law enforcement to search it and lying to federal agents when asked about it.

A 27-year-veteran of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, Garmo resigned on Sept. 20 amid the investigation.

He had been on paid administrative leave since February, after agents with the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives executed search warrants at several places, including his home and a sheriff’s substation he supervised.

He was disciplined by Sheriff Bill Gore in 2017 involving gun purchases and sales but county prosecutors declined to file charges and he was issued a warning letter.

Magana remained on the payroll but was put on an administrative assignment amid the probe.

Businessman Waiel Anton pleaded not guilty Friday to helping buyers apply for permits to carry a concealed weapon as part of his business.

comments

  1. avatar Ark says:

    The California roster is a moneymaking racket for law enforcement, just like permits are a bribery racket.

    (D)-run states and cities are all the same.

    1. avatar Someone says:

      Yes, the system was set to work this way, why the surprised face, people?

    2. avatar I Haz A Question says:

      Everyone…this is not new for us here in CA. This is only the latest incident in which CA LEOs have been caught doing this “off roster” black market reselling. Been going on for years. At one time, the Glock G43 was the hot ticket (the G43 has always been illegal to purchase new in CA for non-LEOs).

      Next month it’ll be yet another sting, and another cop arrested. Wash, rinse, repeat.

      1. avatar Jonathan-Houston says:

        Meh. People get the government they deserve.

      2. avatar TickTalk says:

        Well it is legal for cops to sell an off roster in a ptp sale.. they just can’t make a business out of it.. they can’t buy for the purpose of reselling, etc.. there are not any set numbers, like more than 2 a year or anything like that.. so it us up to how badly the DA wants to get reelected..

        1. avatar Solo says:

          There ARE set limits for sales in CA – no more than 5 (sales) a year or you’re deemed a illegal seller, case in point.

    3. avatar Southern Cross says:

      Who watches the watchmen?

      I suppose they will now need a separate “secret police” whose job it is to create climate of fear and suspicion so the people and officials won’t know who is listening or what is reported.

  2. avatar Jim Bob says:

    Don’t forget, some animals are more equal than others.

  3. avatar Andrew Lias says:

    A year. A F*cking year?! This is a real example of privilege.

    1. avatar Ranger Rick says:

      👆 Ladies and gentlemen this guy gets it!

  4. avatar MouseGun says:

    Hey, I’ve seen this one before

  5. avatar Warren Pease says:

    I never could Understand why law enforcement can carry “unsafe guns” not on the California roster and why they can buy and own guns banned for regular citizens.

    Must be a pretty hefty union contribution come election time.

    1. avatar Chief Censor says:

      You have to bribe “law enforcement” to do the job of destroying the country.

      If the job didn’t give them any privileges they wouldn’t do it. Who wants to get paid a low starting wage, wear hot body armor all day, deal with diseased druggies, break up family fights and have an increased chance of being harmed without being given special privileges that you can use when you have a badge?

      Government knows you have to feed your men well or they will abandon you for a better venture. Make them fat, bald and happy…

    2. avatar OBOB says:

      when I ‘lived’ in cali (before digging the tunnel to escape!)

      This would have been my personal top argument if I was ever shot by a cop…did he use a non roster gun?
      and if they did!
      ohh boy…the state used and unsafe gun and it nearly KILLED ME!

      then watch as they back track trying to explain to a jury what is ‘safe’ and what is a BS FEE and an ad-hoc BAN list!

      every-person harmed thusly the state should sue on these terms!

      1. avatar Chief Censor says:

        How often dose a Californian DA charge a cop? How often do Cali cops go to trial for shooting American citizens? There are even videos of Cali cops straight murdering someone yet their homicide is considered justified simply because they work for the government.

        1. avatar OBOB says:

          Okay you are talking one thing AND I am saying something SO different it not even on the ship let alone the ‘wheelhouse’

          Next

    3. avatar TickTalk says:

      The unsafe part went away many years ago.. now it is just a slow-burn handgun ban. It bans newer, safer handguns because they can’t do various magical things.. the list is down to 700 now, but that includes models that are not even in production anymore. Makers can dump their 10 year old stock here till it is gone..

  6. avatar Will Drider says:

    More criminal abuse by those most trusted and entitled to “CUTOUTS” while the common citizens must bear the full weight of 2A Infringements.

  7. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    If true, send them to prison. I testified against my former supervisor in investigations in Federal Court. So did others. So much for the Blue Wall. He got seven years.

    1. avatar Chief Censor says:

      Even the Great Wall of China ends at some point.

    2. avatar Geoff "Run, Bloomie, run!" PR says:

      “So much for the Blue Wall. He got seven years.”

      Is he out yet?

      If not, you might wish to consider a perimeter alarm. The few seconds warning might come in handy… 😉

    3. avatar klaus Von Schmitto says:

      If he was a corrupt cop I hope he licked a toilet and got busted out the first day.

  8. avatar Shire-man says:

    Demand doesn’t magically disappear with ever oppressive restrictions.
    What does happen 100% of the time is corruption, bribes and a black market thrive on feeding that demand.

    1. avatar Dude says:

      Exactly this. There are countless examples all over the planet.

    2. avatar Chief Censor says:

      Then why do Republicans want to continue the drug war?

      1. avatar Shire-man says:

        Because that’s their “do-something” just as guns is the Dems’.

      2. avatar Ranger Rick says:

        Perhaps because recreational use of narcotics and dangerous drugs are detrimental to an orderly society.

        1. avatar Red in CO says:

          Way to prove the point about cognitive dissonance. The left says the same thing about guns and then we scoff and point out that gun control doesn’t keep people from buying weapons. Meanwhile some of those same people think making drugs illegal will prevent people from doing them. How’s that working out exactly? *eye roll*

        2. avatar Chief Censor says:

          And guns are detrimental to a disorderly society with mental illness.

          Remember how banning the drug known as alcohol made the way for a lot of 2nd Amendment infringements?

          I wonder how Mexico is doing with their outlawing of drugs and guns. I think it’s safe to say that most of the demand for drugs is coming from America not Mexico nor Canada.

          Didn’t they legalize cannabis in Canada recently? Seems Canada has more problems when Canadians have guns rather than drugs. I hear there is increasing rate of violent crime now that there are more guns circulating on the streets.

          It’s odd to hear you say drugs are so bad for American society when doctors are prescribing drugs that Asia considers just as illegal as cannabis or heroine. Americans take their daily meds without even considering themselves drug addicts.

        3. avatar OBOB says:

          “””””””””””””””””””Red in CO says:
          November 23, 2019 at 16:10

          Way to prove the point about cognitive dissonance. The left says the same thing about guns and then we scoff and point out that gun control doesn’t keep people from buying weapons. Meanwhile some of those same people think making drugs illegal will prevent people from doing them. How’s that working out exactly? *eye roll*””””””””””””””””””

          woof what a BS comparison…in your little world picking up a gun would mean you eat off your kids face?
          drugs do that…never heard of a gun causing that?

        4. avatar Chief Censor says:

          @OBOB

          Remember when the older generations used to sit around being lazy and listening to funky music after they got high? Remember all the peace and love? How they all wanted world peace over war. Then the “conservatives” said those hippies were a bunch of losers for not wanting to join the government and murder people with guns in a foreign land in order to stop big government from coming to America.

          Now there’s a war on terror, a war on poverty, a war on drugs, etc. Most of it brought in by the “conservative” party who claims to be Christian. I didn’t know violence and stealing were Christian values, I thought they were sins.

          Who knew the Democrats were going to end up being more honest than the Republicans. Those Democrats are sure loud and proud. Maybe that’s one reason the youth follow them so strongly. Winning is winning.

        5. avatar Anymouse says:

          War on poverty was LBJ, and I don’t know anyone who considers him a conservative. Are you waging a one man war on truth?

          Regardless, I agree that drug legalization would reduce murders and the influence if gangs, as the repeal of alcohol prohibition did. There will probably be bad consequences from more widespread use, but I also think it’s amoral to prevent people from doing as they decide with their bodies, despite how stupid those choices are. Blaming being high for damages and injury is wrong. A person decided to diminish their judgment in an unsafe environment and should suffer the consequences, just as a drunk driver, not the whiskey, is responsible for causing a fiery crash.

  9. avatar SoCalJack says:

    Unrelated, the CCW wait for San Diego County folks is around 9 months, actual good news. CCW process for other CA counties have been improving the past few years. CA CCW map as of spring 2019.
    https://miro.medium.com/max/4000/0*ogWd0KRllQkq8pbP.png

  10. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    It seems it’s government guys that are breaking the law.
    I already know that people with Carry Permits are much more law-abiding than police officers.

    1. avatar Chief Censor says:

      In most places in California you need to “buy” a CCW permit. To do that you need to scratch the back of a LEO. At one point California residents could travel to a county where the Sheriff didn’t need a little greasing up to give you a permit, but the other cops and government put a stop to that. Now only the inner circle is allowed to exercise their human rights.

      1. avatar Chris T in KY says:

        Libertarians Liberals and the Left control the media. With their own criteria All three determine which states are the least corrupt. And which state has the most safeguards to prevent malfeasance on the part of elected officials.
        John Stossel of Reason magazine and Fox Business, has said California is one of THE LEAST corrupt states in the nation. For example Washington State is considered one of the least corrupt states as well.

        Depending on the List you use Kentucky, North Dakota, and Mississippi are some of the worst states for corruption.

        When I look at these different list I notice that states with good pro gun civil rights or even constitutional carry states, are listed AS MORE corrupt on the Lists of the three L’s.

        btw
        If your not looking for corruption in your state that makes your state safer? But if you’re looking for, indict and convict officials your state is considered more corrupt???

        California state senator Leland “rocket Launcher” Lee was charged by the Feds. Not the state of California. The California DA’s weren’t looking at him.

        Meanwhile of other states.

        In Tennessee the DA Operation “Tennessee Waltz” sent 14 members of the state Legislature to mostly 12 years prison sentences. This was a joint FBI and TBI anti-corruption effort. (TN bureau of Investigation)

        1. avatar Ton E says:

          Libertarians control the media? What planet are you on???

  11. avatar Hannibal says:

    Creating a law that makes an item legal for some to buy, not for others, but makes it legal for the former to sell to the latter but not as a business or with the intent when buying… yeah, great idea, what could go wrong.

  12. avatar WI Patriot says:

    So, once again, guns aren’t the problem, criminal are, and in this case, criminal LE…

  13. avatar Mike Hawkizard says:

    Wait. What law states that you can’t sell more than 5 guns a year that the article references? Don’t get me wrong, this is “in the business”, but I’ve never seen anything that lists a specific number.

    1. avatar Chief Censor says:

      Look up the FFL license rules.

      1. avatar SkorpionFan says:

        Not a lawyer, but I just checked with published ATF documents.
        There is not a federal regulation that says you need a FFL is you sell 5 firearms per year or any other “threshold” number within a year.

        Do I Need A License To Buy and Sell Firearms? – ATF
        ATF Publication 5310.2, January 2016
        https://www.atf.gov/file/100871/download
        quote:
        Federal law does not establish a “bright-line” rule for when a federal firearms license is 
        required. As a result, there is no specific threshold number or frequency of sales, quantity of firearms, or amount of profit or time invested that triggers the licensure requirement. Instead, determining whether you are “engaged in the business” of dealing in firearms requires looking at the specific facts and circumstances of your activities.

        As a general rule, you will need a license if you repetitively buy and sell firearms
        with the principal motive of making a profit. In contrast, if you only make occasional
        sales of firearms from your personal collection, you do not need to be licensed.

        1. avatar ropingdown says:

          Yes, the “5 guns a year” so-called rule…is a ATF rule-of-thumb indicating the point at which they may start to look at you more closely.

  14. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    Once again, we see just the corruption in law enforcement around the subject of guns.

    And LEO’s will continue to wonder why the gun rights community has been withdrawing their support for law enforcement…

  15. avatar Chief Censor says:

    They changed the law to stop cops from selling banned for retail handguns. Of course those banned handgun laws only applied to residents that don’t work as “law enforcement.” If you are a cop you have the privilege to buy what you want even after they said you can’t sell them to non cops. The government passed those laws because there was a few cops in the state that would help out California residents acquire handguns that were no longer on the list. I think the Steyr M was once on the roster at some point, so to get a new one you needed the help of a cop. There were cops on Calguns that would help you out. Now that is illegal.

    Then came the ghost and single shot guns. Obviously more laws easily passed to go after that once legal act.

    Seems like all the government wants to do is take your human rights and put you in a cage for life regardless if you haven’t hurt anyone. California commies love minimum mandatory sentences and the three strikes rule for everyone but the government. They really don’t like the non whites although they act like they are there to save them as they pass more laws to put them in a cage to use as slaves and take their kids to raise them as commies.

    It’s 99% the case that “law enforcement” think about themselves first, money second and family third. America and its people do not factor in those cops’ minds because those three mentioned above are enough to cloud you out.

    Most cops are bad, it’s only a matter of the degree. It’s rare to find a cop that doesn’t take residents’ property away through ticketing, that doesn’t trick people out of their human rights, that doesn’t have the intent to arrest people before they even know if there is a crime to arrest for, etc.

    I am seeing the millennial cops in California starting to carry extended magazines as if they already have it on their mind they are going to unload on some poor bastard and the extra rounds are going to be absolutely necessary to “end the threat.” I believe there are already body cams of millennial cops in California using their extended mags to light people up… I think one of those videos is from the San Diego Sheriff’s Office.

    I have no clue why “conservatives” love them some big government door kickers. If you are a conservative your ideology is supposed to be about small government that has no real power on your personal life. Not a militarized force that occupies your neighborhoods waiting for an order that allows them to raid your home with weapons of war. Why would any true conservative advocate for a nanny state were men with weapons tell you what to do, how to do it, when to do it and so on? Why does a conservative rely on government to provide for him/her? Are “conservatives” to scared to live without big bad government? Are guns and training just for fun or are they to make sure you don’t need someone else to be your super hero?

    Conservatives all seem like a bunch of socialists pretending to not be a bunch of lefties. At least the “liberals” are honest about being a bunch of socialists. The Democrats are strong enough to say it on stage in front of the world.

    1. avatar Red in CO says:

      I agree with most of what you’ve said here, particularly about the inexplicable reflexive support so many in the right have for the armed agents of the state. Saying “Come and Take It” and also “Thin Blue Line” is just as bad as the leftists who think cops routinely execute black men and also that only cops should have guns. So, do you vote for the party that wants to send a SWAT team to your house to kill you and take your guns, or the party who will praise the bravery and heroism of the SWAT team after they kill you and take your guns?

    2. avatar Guesty McGuesterson says:

      Vladski, is that you?

      You’ve been away on vacation a while. Your troll skills need sharpening.

      1. avatar Chief Censor says:

        Answer the questions “conservative.”

        You must be one of those Cali commies who was raised by only his mommy.

        Tell us how loving/worshiping a government and wanting it to strong/big isn’t a socialist principle. Explain why it’s great to have a “standing army” patrolling your lands (with weapons of war and armor) that is always trying to find a way to put you into a cage or take your property.

        Come on socialist, educate us. By the way, I don’t speak German and I am not fond of salutes.

        1. avatar Guesty McGuesterson says:

          Nice try, Chief, but we “conservatives” here in CA are experts in recognizing socialists because we fight against their policies every day.

          Really, though, you rant against people here, which makes one wonder why you’re even here on this site? Oh, that’s right…you’re a troll and just want to get some spotlight on yourself.

          That’s what playground bullies do.

          Not falling for it, Chief.

    3. avatar strych9 says:

      So I don’t answer your questions here as a “Conservative”. I’m more of a Libertarian in the “Classical Liberal” sense. What follows is my opinion based on observation. It’s admittedly anecdotal.

      Generally speaking I think “Conservative” and “Liberal” are just monikers that people pick based on a set of preconceived notions and arbitrary ideas about what those groups believe.

      Honestly, IMHO, the vast majority of people don’t give a shit about anyone else’s rights. They care about having their opinions enforced on other people (though I don’t think the usually see it that way, rather they rationalize having their opinions enforced on others with pseudologic which is a whole other discussion going into evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology). When they talk of “rights” what they actually mean “things I like”. When they speak of “crimes” what they really mean are “things I don’t approve of”.

      Generally people seem to want whatever they like to be legally protected and whatever they don’t like or are afraid of to be illegal. They don’t really have a philosophical underpinning to the way they think because they were never taught anything fancy schmancy like that.

      I marvel at what seems like rank stupidity all over the place but I have to constantly remind myself that those people are actually victims of the best prisons that can be built by humanity. The best prisons are constructed in your head. Done right you’re so blind to that prison’s existence that you’ll actually defend the prison as freedom and it’s creators as your liberators. People do that all the time and they’re emotionally attached to that prison so they will defend it viciously if they come to think it’s being attacked because they don’t see it as an attack on the prison but rather a personal attack on themselves.

      This exists in various forms in all generations. It’s part of the reason for the “OK, Boomer” and “OK, Millennial” war that’s going on right now. It’s a goddamn useless waste of time but people devote stupid amounts of energy to it because it feels right to do so. They’ve literally been born and raised to do it.

  16. avatar Buff cousin Elroy says:

    Damn pathetic how law enforcement serve barely any time when they decide to be criminals. Cops should be held to a higher standard by the courts, when cops break the law they should get the maximum sentences. Police are supposed to be shining examples of citizens, but in reality about 50 percent of them are scumbag thugs.

    1. avatar Chief Censor says:

      I think California is worst than Texas when it comes to justice served against law enforcement. I hear Cali cops shoot more people and get away with it than Texas cops these days. As long as the cops don’t try to help out the citizens of the U.S. they will be protected in California. Once the cop tries to behave different than the system is designed they are punished one way or another.

  17. avatar LifeSavor says:

    Can we twist this to: “San Diego Sherriff’s Deputy decides not to obey or enforce unconstitutional gun laws”?

    Probably not.

  18. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    California police found guilty of misconduct are also “off roster”. California does not place its officers found guilty of misconduct on any national list of Bad Cops. They don’t report the numbers to any outside agency.

    1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

      Misconduct, no. On this point you’re correct if that’s the extent of the issue. But criminal charges follow anyone around no matter where they move/transfer to, so…

  19. avatar Ralph says:

    “’It was truly a hobby for me, and it just got a little out of control,’ he told the newspaper.”

    I seem to remember Pablo Escobar saying something like that.

    1. avatar ropingdown says:

      Well, they’re apparently not imbued with the joy and devotion of a Simeon Mogilevich.
      They sound to me no worse than a typical Philadelphia building inspector “just cooperating to help a non-compliant but well intentioned restaurateur make a living.”
      The problem is CA seems to me this, that to many of the cops are state or county, not enough are run in smaller local departments closer to the voters they depend on for their livelihood. Those are the best departments I’ve come across. You would know better than I.

  20. avatar The Crimson Pirate says:

    I didn’t read all the comments but these guys sound like heroes to me. Cops, instead of obeying unconstitutional laws, were helping regular citizens engage in civil disobedience against them. We should be happy about them doing this, not about them getting caught.

  21. avatar st381183 says:

    Sauce for the goose……make law enforcement have only the weapons civilian are allowed to carry. 10 round mag cap, no pistol grips, no muzzle devices or threaded barrels, nada, zippo, zilch. This from a retired freedom loving LEO who blessedly doesn’t live in the gun control utopia of California. No more carve outs for cops as all civilians deserve the same rights of access and possession as they do.

  22. avatar ceefour says:

    Oh my…I’m sure it is just a coincidence the seller is a white boy.

  23. avatar enuf says:

    “Garmo previously told The San Diego Union-Tribune that he is a gun collector, did not have a gun business or know that he needed a federal firearms license to sell more than five guns a year.”

    This guy was a Captain, at that level he has no excuse for not knowing the laws. Sure, the laws are crap, but he was a police officer at a management level expected to supervise others. If he has not educated himself on the law, he is an idiot and never should have been in law enforcement at all. Of course, I do not believe a word of it. He knew what he was doing and got nailed for it.

    The kid with the toy guns, obvious toys with the typical orange plastic muzzle piece. That’s bad enough but the school district’s stonewalling deserves to see people fired and walked off public property. Any object hanging on the wall of a person’s home is none of the school’s business.

    Advice to parents if your youngster is doing online learning, hang a bed sheet behind the kid covering whatever would have been in view however innocent.

    You know what, I tell adults the same thing when they work at home and have to video conference.

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