Ex-SDSO Capt. Tipped Off Cousin Prior to Pot Shop Raid: Indictment

Federal officials said Friday that former SDSO Capt. Marco Garmo was indicted for gun trafficking, aiding marijuana distribution, and lying to federal agents.

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NBC 7

A former San Diego County Sheriff's captain was indicted for violating drug laws by alerting owners, including his cousin, of an illegal marijuana dispensary that law enforcement was planning to search, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced Friday.

At a news briefing Friday in downtown San Diego, federal prosecutors announced the indictment of former SDSO Capt. Marco Garmo, 52, for gun trafficking, aiding marijuana distribution, and lying to federal agents.

Garmo was captain of the Rancho San Diego station, where he was responsible for policing unlicensed marijuana dispensaries operating in and around Spring Valley.

The indictment alleges that Garmo alerted the owners, including his cousin, of a marijuana dispensary named, "Campo Greens" 24 hours before a search by law enforcement was scheduled.

After the tip, the staff at Campo Greens would then empty the shelves and remove its inventory and cash to avoid confiscation of their products.

Phone records also showed that Garmo reached out to his cousin when the operation was called off and the illegal dispensary was "back up and running in a matter of hours," said Peter Mazza, First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California.

Weeks later, when Campo Greens was posted with a cease-and-desist letter by San Diego County Code Compliance, Garmo again reached out to an acquaintance at the County. Asking about the scheduled enforcement action against Campo Greens, Garmo inquired, "Can we push it back?" His acquaintance replied, "Yes, you can," according to the indictment.

Garmo was interviewed by federal agents when they were tipped off and lied to them, claiming that "he had never told a dispensary about an impending search warrant because he would never have put his deputies in harm's way," the indictment detailed.

The dispensary store, located in Casa De Oro near Spring Valley, was later closed on Aug. 21, 2018.

Garmo was placed on paid leave in February as the federal investigation started. He retired in September after more than 27-years with the sheriff's department.

"Law enforcement officers, at any level, who abuse their positions and the sacred trust placed in them by the communities they serve by aiding the criminal element will ultimately be brought to justice," said FBI Assistant Special Agent-In-Charge Todd Hemmen. "The FBI will continue to relentlessly work to detect, investigate, and prosecute those officers who place personal enrichment above their allegiance to the rule of law."

Garmo pleaded not guilty and is placed on a $100,000 bail. He is expected back in court on Jan. 10, 2020. 

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