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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at editor@instoremag.com.

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Louis Vuitton to Sell Jewelry Made From World’s Second-Largest Diamond

The deal follows LVMH’s acquisition of Tiffany & Co.

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LVMH Sewelo Diamon

LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE has entered a deal to sell jewelry made from the world’s second-largest diamond, known as the Sewelo diamond.

It’s a 1,758 carat gem that’s the size of a tennis ball.

Lucara Diamond Corp. announced a deal with LVMH and the HB Co., a diamond manufacturer from Antwerp, that will see the diamond cut into pieces and made into Louis Vuitton jewelry.

Bloomberg reports that LVMH “will likely create several extremely high-end pieces  to establish a sense of exclusivity.”

A price tag for the Sewelo has not been revealed. Yahoo Finance notes that it sold for $53 million in 2017.

The acquisition is further evidence of LVMH’s plans to grow its jewelry business, according to Bloomberg. It follows the company’s nearly $16 billion acquisition of Tiffany & Co.

The diamond was recovered from Lucara’s Karowe Diamond Mine in Botswana in April 2019.

According to a press release from Lucara:

Lucara will receive an up front non-material payment for the Sewelô and retain a 50% interest in the individual polished diamonds that result.

Further, 5% of all of the retail sales proceeds generated from this historic collection will be invested directly back into Botswana on community-based initiatives undertaken by Lucara.

Lucara CEO Eira Thomas said, “We are delighted to be partnering with Louis Vuitton, the famous luxury House, to transform the historic, 1,758 carat Sewelô, Botswana’s largest diamond, into a collection of fine jewellery that will commemorate this extraordinary discovery and contribute direct benefits to our local communities of interest in Botswana.”

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Karma Hits Hard as Bungling Thieves Lock Themselves in Jewelry Store During Robbery (Video)

A judge called the crime a ‘fiasco.’

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Security footage of a jewelry story robbery described as a “fiasco,” with the thieves briefly locking themselves in the business, is making the rounds on social media.

The bungling robbers struck the Ital Gold shop in Green Lanes, Haringey, north London, the BBC reports. The crime took place in April, but the video surfaced recently when Andrew Elliott, 32, was sentenced to seven years in prison for the robbery.

A store worker “was held in a headlock and dragged to the floor,” according to the BBC. She broke free and ran away, hitting a panic alarm and then hiding in the bathroom.

Footage of the heist has accumulated 1.3 million views on Twitter, Today.com reports.

In the clip, the suspects tried to flee but realized they were trapped, as the door wouldn’t open from the inside. One of the suspects thought to hit the “catch and release” button, according to Today.com. The thieves then repeatedly failed to hold the door for each other.

In sentencing Elliott, Judge Mark Dennis QC said, “This was a planned and organized robbery, however much of a fiasco the latter part of it turned out to be,” according to the BBC.

The three still managed to make off with $27,000 in jewelry. The other two suspects have yet to be identified.

Watch the BBC’s clip:

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Signet Stock Soars to Best Day in 27 Years Following Strong Holiday Results

Digital sales led the way.

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Signet Kay Jewelers

Signet Jewelers Ltd.’s share price soared on Thursday in the wake of strong holiday sales.

The stock saw it’s largest single-day gain in 27 years, climbing more than 40 percent, MarketWatch reports. It closed at $30.13 per share.

Signet (NYSE: SIG) on Dec. 5 predicted that same-store sales for its fourth-quarter, which ends in January, would be down between 2 percent and 4 percent compared to the same period a year ago.

But strong holiday sales prompted the retailer, whose brands include Jared, Kay Jewelers and Zales, to raise its guidance. It’s now predicting that same-store sales for the quarter will be up 0.1 percent.

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Digital sales have been particularly strong. For the nine weeks ending Jan. 4, they were up 13.5 percent compared with the same period a year ago. Brick-and-mortar sales were down 0.2 percent.

“Product newness, investments in our digital capabilities, and more targeted marketing campaigns drove both e-commerce and brick and mortar growth in North America,” Signet CEO Virginia Drosos was quoted saying.

Read more at the MarketWatch

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