On November 22, 2019, San Diego County Sheriff Marco Garmo and four other people were arrested and indicted on charges of illegal firearm trafficking.
Garmo, a 27-year veteran police officer, faces charges of engaging in the business of dealing in firearms without a license, making false statements in acquisition of a firearm, obstruction of justice, aiding and abetting the possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and other offenses.
The 23-count indictment alleges sheriff’s department Lt. Fred Magana, San Diego jeweler Leo Hamel, firearms dealer Giovanni Tilotta, and El Cajon resident Waiel Anton aided Garmo in operating an illegal gun trafficking business.
Garmo claimed he had no idea a federal firearms licence (FFL) was required to sell more than five firearms per year. He also claimed he was just a firearm enthusiast whose hobby was buying and selling guns.
“I don’t have some gun trafficking business. It was truly a hobby for me, and it just got a little out of control,” he said.
If this was just a “hobbyist gone wild” then this case would never make the news. Sheriff Marco Garmo was reprimanded for this exact criminal behaviour before. He continued to buy and sell guns illegally.
After federal agents searched his home in early 2019, Garmo was placed on administrative leave. He later chose to retire, maintaining through it all that he did nothing wrong.
Assistant US Attorney Peter Mazza isn’t buying what Garmo is trying to sell.
Between March 2013 and February 2019, Garmo acquired 146 guns and sold or transferred 104 of them. Under California law, “off-roster” handguns can only be sold to law enforcement officers. Many of the guns Garmo sold were “off-roster” and they ended up in civilian hands.
That’s far more than “hobbyist” activities.
In March 2018 the Union-Tribune reported Garmo was disciplined for selling weapons without a federal firearms license.
March 2018 Sheriff Bill Gore issued him a formal reprimand, and the case was eventually referred to criminal prosecutors, who declined to prosecute. Garmo was sent a letter warning him to “refrain” from illegally selling guns in the future.
While the current charges must still be proven in court, two of the defendants already pleaded guilty after making deals with the assistant attorney’s office.
Lt. Fred Magana, Garmo’s co-worker, remains on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of criminal charges.
Sheriff Bill Gore said he “disappointed by the actions of these two individuals, as they do not reflect the values of this department and its thousands of trustworthy, hard-working employees.”
Sheriff Bill Gore was the agent in charge at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992 when FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi murdered Vicki Weaver while she held infant daughter in her arms. She died instantly when Horiuchi’s bullet exploded her brain onto the wall behind her.
Gore denied giving Horiuchi the green light and he refused to testify at a congressional hearing.
When men of such questionable character as Bill Gore are in charge of men like Marco Garmo, I don’t find it surprising in the least that Garmo continued selling guns illegally after being reprimanded less than a year earlier.
When Bill Gore, now the head of the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, refuses to take responsibility for murdering an unarmed woman holding her baby girl, I don’t find it the least bit surprising to find Marco Garmo hiding behind his disingenuous “hobby” gun owner lie.
I’m grateful for Assistant US Attorney Peter Mazza, however, who said:
“Law enforcement members who step outside of the law are subject to the same standards as everyone else in our community. No one deserves the fair application of the law more than all of the law-abiding men and women who wear the badge honorably to protect our communities.”