Connect with us

Headlines

Prominent Jeweler Pleads Guilty in Gun Trafficking Case

He agreed to forfeit over 200 firearms and 100,000 rounds of ammunition seized from him on Feb. 13.

mm

Published

on

A prominent San Diego jeweler has pleaded guilty in connection with an illegal firearms business.

Leo Hamel of Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers admitted to aiding and abetting the illegal gun trafficking business of former San Diego County Sheriff’s Capt. Marco Garmo. Garmo was arrested last week based on a federal grand jury indictment. It’s alleged that the firearms trafficking sometimes happened at his office at the Rancho San Diego Station with the help of others, including a fellow sheriff’s deputy.

Smith and DeGroot Release “Much Ado About Lab-Grown Diamonds” Podcast Episode
The Business of Jewelry

Smith and DeGroot Release “Much Ado About Lab-Grown Diamonds” Podcast Episode

New “The Business of Jewelry” Podcast Addresses Questions of Hiring
The Business of Jewelry

New “The Business of Jewelry” Podcast Addresses Questions of Hiring

Podcast: Put Your Heart in Your Business
JimmyCast

Podcast: Put Your Heart in Your Business

In addition to Hamel, the indictment charges Sheriff’s Department Lt. Fred Magana, firearms dealer Giovanni Tilotta and El Cajon resident Waiel Anton with aiding and abetting the business. Like Hamel, Magana entered a guilty plea in federal court on Nov. 22, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California.

Hamel was granted a $250,000 bond secured by a lien on a piece of property. Magana was granted a $25,000 bond. They are scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 21. Anton has been arrested, and Tilotta is currently at large.

The indictment describes Garmo’s business of firearms dealing as undertaken for both financial profit and to cultivate future donors for his anticipated campaign for sheriff of San Diego County. Authorities say most of Garmo’s firearms transactions involved the purchase and resale of “off roster” handguns, which designates guns that may be purchased by members of law enforcement but not members of the general public. While law enforcement officers are not prohibited from reselling “off roster” handguns in certain circumstances, Garmo received an explicit warning from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that excessive resales for profit could violate federal law.

Advertisement

Garmo acquired roughly 146 firearms between March 2013 and February 2019, per California’s firearms record database, and he sold or otherwise transferred 104 of them to others, according to the release.

As part of his guilty plea, Hamel admitted to purchasing a variety of off roster handguns from Garmo, and engineered a series of “straw purchases” in which Garmo would falsely certify that he was acquiring an “off roster” gun for himself when in truth he was purchasing it for Hamel.

Hamel further admitted that he acquired several firearms from Garmo without proper documentation through bogus, long-term firearm “loans” in exchange for money — transactions that authorities say were sales in all but name. Hamel agreed in his plea to conducting straw purchases with Garmo and Magana, and to planning with Garmo and Tilotta to construct a false paper trail to make it appear that the straw purchases were legitimate. As part of his guilty plea, Hamel has also agreed to forfeit over 200 firearms and 100,000 rounds of ammunition seized from him on Feb. 13.

As part of the investigation, the FBI raided Hamel’s store and his $1.6 million home in February, according to NBC San Diego.

Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers was featured in the July 2009 issue of INSTORE as part of our America’s Coolest Stores program.

Advertisement

Advertisement

SPONSORED VIDEO

She Wanted to Spend More Time with Her Kids. She Called Wilkerson.

Your children are precious. More precious than gold? Absolutely! Just ask Lesley Ann Davis, owner of Lesley Ann Jewels, an independent jewelry store that — until the end of 2023 — had quite a following in Houston, Texas. To spend more time with her four sons, all in high school, she decided to close her store. Luckily, she was familiar with Wilkerson and called them as soon as she knew she wanted to move on to bigger, better and more family-focused things. Was she happy with her decision? Yes, she was. Says Davis, “Any owner looking to make that life change, looking to retire, looking to close, looking for a pause in their career, I would recommend Wilkerson. Hands down!”

Promoted Headlines

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Subscribe


BULLETINS

INSTORE helps you become a better jeweler
with the biggest daily news headlines and useful tips.
(Mailed 5x per week.)

Facebook

Latest Comments

Most Popular