SAN DIEGO (AP) — A former San Diego County sheriff’s captain who used his law enforcement credentials to run a gun trafficking business was sentenced Friday to two years in prison by a federal judge who said his arrogance was comparable to “a mob boss of sorts."
Former San Diego County Sheriff’s Captain Marco Garmo pleaded guilty in September that he had acted as an unlicensed firearm dealer, buying almost 150 weapons and reselling nearly 100 over a period of roughly six years.
A number of those transactions involved “straw purchases,” where Garmo acquired firearms for others since law enforcement officers are exempt from California's limits on certain newer handguns.
U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel said Garmo was “almost becoming a mob boss of sorts” in picking winners and losers and dispensing unlawful favors to friends and family.
Garmo's lawyers could not be immediately reached for comment.
In his plea agreement, Garmo admitted that one of his goals in selling so many guns was profit, but another was to curry favor with prominent county residents whom he expected might support his planned run for San Diego County sheriff.
Garmo also acknowledged tipping off his cousin who was part owner of an illegal marijuana dispensary that it was about to be searched by deputies, prompting the illicit business to clear its shelves, according to the complaint. Weeks later, Garmo helped his cousin again after the business got an abatement notice, requiring it to shut down.
Garmo reached out to a county employee and asked, “Can we push it back?” They replied, “Yes you can.” Garmo helped another illegal dispensary to stay open, working out a deal to receive 10% in fees for his efforts, according to prosecutors.
“This investigation uncovered blatant and repetitive violations of the public trust by a senior law enforcement officer,” Attorney for the United States Linda Frakes said in a statement.
Garmo was a deputy for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department for almost 27 years until Sept. 20, 2019. His arrest in 2019 was among a string of cases involving current and former law enforcement officers in Southern California accused of illegal firearm sales.
They included two Los Angeles area police officers who were convicted of making illegal gun sales, including one to a convicted felon.
Also in 2019, a former Pasadena police lieutenant was sentenced to more than a year in federal prison for illegally selling more than 100 guns.