Tilotta gun store owner Sheriffs Hamel
The Sheriff’s Rancho San Diego station, where prosecutors said some of Garmo’s sales took place with Tilotta’s aide. Photo credit: Screen shot, www.nbcsandiego.com/

A former San Diego County sheriff’s lieutenant who pleaded guilty to helping ex-sheriff’s Capt. Marco Garmo sell “off-roster” firearms received a time-served sentence Friday.

Fred Magana, a nearly 20-year veteran of the sheriff’s department, was indicted for assisting Garmo in selling guns only available to members of law enforcement to members of the public.

Garmo was also indicted and sentenced to two years in prison for the scheme, which prosecutors said was spurred both by profit and aims of creating goodwill among potential donors for his planned campaign to run for San Diego County sheriff.

In his plea, Magana admitted to taking part in the straw purchases of two handguns for local jeweler Leo Hamel, who was sentenced to probation and home confinement for knowingly purchasing numerous illegal firearms from Garmo in exchange for his assistance in Garmo’s sheriff campaign.

At his sentencing hearing, Magana said that upon his assignment to the sheriff’s Rancho San Diego station, his initial admiration of Garmo kept him from recognizing that something illicit was happening.

He said Garmo did not conceal his dealings, leading him to believe there was nothing untoward about the sales.

“I failed to see the wolf in sheep’s clothing,” he told U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel. “I should have known better. That’s why I’m here today.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Haden credited Magana for pleading guilty early — on the day the indictments were announced — and for testifying at a co-defendant’s trial. However, he argued Magana was more aware of Garmo’s activities than he let on and knew Garmo was being investigated by the District Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice.

Others charged include Waiel Anton, who was sentenced last year to just over one year in prison for a variety of activities, such as assisting people in securing expedited concealed carry weapon permits and warning unlicensed marijuana dispensary owners when law enforcement raids on their businesses were upcoming.

Local gun store owner Giovanni “Gio” Tilotta awaits sentencing. He was convicted by a jury of helping Garmo conduct straw purchases and for backdating firearms transfer records for customers.

Criminal defense attorney Vikas Bajaj pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and received probation for aiding in the falsification of paperwork when he purchased a handgun and a rifle from Tilotta inside Garmo’s sheriff’s office.


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Ellen Bullock