San Diego County California Sheriff's Department Illegal Firearm Sales (2013-2019)

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Between March 2013 and February 2019, San Diego County California Sheriff's Department Captain Marco Garmo used his police authorization to purchase "off-roster" guns that only law enforcement officers can buy and resold them to non-authorized purchasers.[1][2]

Garmo enlisted Lieutenant Fred Magana to also conduct sales.[3][1]

Garmo did not have a federal firearms license (FFL). State law limits people who do not possess an FFL to five sales or purchases per year. Garmo sold 11 handguns in 2014, eight in 2015, and 25 in 2016[4], and at least 150 firearms over the six year period.[3] Some of the sales were made from Garmo's office at the sheriff's substation.[2]

In 2016, the Sheriff's Department learned of the enterprise.[3]

In 2017, the District Attorney declined to press charges against Garmo.[3] Prosecutors warned Garmo to not engage in additional illegal transactions.[4]

On February 1, 2017, Garmo received a written reprimand for violating state limits on gun sales.[4]

Garmo continued to advertise guns for sale online. In 2018, Garmo sold 10 guns to undercover BATFE agents.[3]

Two firearms registered to Garmo were recovered by law enforcement while investigating other crimes, including at least one in Detroit.[3]

On February 13, 2019, federal investigators seized 64 firearms during a search of Garmo's house and office.[5]

In the summer of 2019, Magana was placed on unpaid administrative leave.[5]

On September 20, 2019, Garmo retired.[1][5]

On November 22, 2019, Garmo was arrested and indicted on 23 charges, and pleaded not guilty.[5][1] Magana was charged with aiding and abetting Garmo's illegal firearms business, and pleaded guilty.[1]

On September 15, 2020, Garmo pleaded guilty to one count of engaging in the business of dealing firearms without a federal license.[6]

On March 12, 2021, Garmo was sentenced to two years in prison and to repay $8,350 in profits. As a felon, Garmo is prohibited from owning firearms. His retirement benefits might be recalculated to the date of his first crime and he would have to repay any amount overpaid since his retirement.[3]

Some sales were run through a local gun dealer, who was convicted of aiding in "straw-man" purchases. During that trial, new testimony showed that Detective Francisco Acero Jr. and Deputy Alan Campagna, bought AK-47-style rifles at Garmo's office without completing the correct paperwork or waiting the required 10 days for delivery. The officers completed backdated paperwork so they could take immediate delivery.[2]

Acero and Campagna were placed on administrative assignment.[2]


Officers Involved

Official Reports

Additional Sources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Former Sheriff’s Captain Indicted for Gun Trafficking, Aiding Marijuana Distribution & Lying to Federal Agents, U.S. Attorney's Office, 2019-11-22
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Alex Riggins, Federal gun trial unearths allegations against two more sheriff’s deputies, San Diego Union Tribune, 2022-09-17
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Kristina Davis, Former sheriff’s captain gets prison in gun sales case, San Diego Union Tribune, 2021-03-12
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Jeff McDonald, [ Sheriff’s captain was disciplined for dozens of illegal gun sales, not charged with a crime, San Diego Union Tribune, 2018-03-25
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Jeff McDonald, Former San Diego sheriff’s captain, four others indicted in connection with illegal gun sales, San Diego Union Tribune, 2019-11-22
  6. Local Gun Dealer Convicted of Illegally Trafficking Firearms and Conducting Straw Purchases, U.S. Attorney's Office, 2022-09-09