A former sheriff’s captain in San Diego has pleaded guilty to operating an illegal arms trafficking ring, buying and selling guns supposedly only available to law enforcement. His strategy was twofold: Not only was he receiving cash for the weapons, he was also generating “goodwill” among donors he wanted to support his campaign run for San Diego County sheriff.
Marco Garmo, a 27-year veteran of the Rancho San Diego station and former captain, made what prosecutors called a series of “straw purchases,” telling gun dealers he was buying guns for himself, but actually buying them for people for whom owning such guns is illegal. These included Glocks and other handguns, but also rifles and high-capacity magazines. Between 2013 and 2019, Garmo bought 144 firearms and offloaded 93 of them to others.
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Garmo exploited a provision in California’s gun laws that allows law enforcement to sometimes re-sell certain firearms, provided they’re not making money off it it. Garmo told the Union-Tribune that actually, he was unaware what he was doing was illegal, and “The minute it was brought to my attention it stopped happening.” Except that it didn’t.
In his plea, Garmo also admitted to tipping off his cousin, who ran an unlicensed weed dispensary, to a planned search, in addition to attempting to launch a kickback scheme with yet another unlicensed dispensary.
Garmo retired shortly before his indictment last November. He faces a maximum of five years in prison.