Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith’s trial and conviction on charges that she used her office and California’s “may issue” carry laws to corruptly obtain cash and prizes from some applicants in exchange for approving their concealed carry permits received a fair amount of media coverage, especially here at Bearing Arms, but her case isn’t the only scandal in the state involving concealed carry corruption. Down in southern California, a second man has now been sentenced to federal prison for his role in a similar scheme allegedly masterminded by a captain in the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
According to prosecutors, Waiel Anton wasn’t a member of law enforcement, but portrayed himself as an honorary deputy in the department with the connections necessary to help grease the wheels of concealed carry applicants willing to pay up in order for their permits to be approved or expedited. That connection? Sheriff’s Capt. Marco Garmo.
Though Anton’s primary source of income was as a local garage door repairman, many believed he was essentially a sheriff’s deputy, according to prosecutors, who wrote in a sentencing memorandum that “His apparent connections to law enforcement, and specifically to the Sheriff’s Department, enabled Anton to commit the crimes charged in this case.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Garmo provided favors — often through Anton — both for profit and in order to create goodwill among potential donors for his planned campaign to run for San Diego County Sheriff. Garmo, 55, has since pleaded guilty to unlawfully selling “off-roster” firearms and been sentenced to two years in prison.
At Anton’s sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel said that barring Garmo’s prosecution, “There was a possibility that we would have had one of the most corrupt government officers ever leading the San Diego Sheriff’s Department,” a prospect he called “horrifying.”
Most of the charges against Anton involved tip-offs to local marijuana dispensaries about pending raids conducted by the sheriff’s department, though authorities allege that he also played a role in expediting the processing of carry permits.
Prosecutors say CCW applicants typically had to wait eight to nine months for an appointment, but Anton was able to get his clients appointments in about two weeks.
An undercover federal agent was referred to Anton by Garmo, according to the prosecution’s sentencing brief, and paid him $1,000 for a quick CCW appointment. One of the $100 bills given to Anton was found days later in Garmo’s wallet, the prosecutor’s brief said.
While Garmo received two years in federal prison for his role in the pay-to-play scheme, Anton caught a bit of a break and was sentenced to a year in federal custody earlier this week. That may not sound like much, but it’s actually more time than Sheriff Smith received in Santa Clara County. In fact, she managed to avoid jail time altogether by being charged in civil, not criminal court, though her two top deputies are still facing criminal charges and an anticipated trial next year.
Both of these cases, however, demonstrate one of the major flaws in allowing law enforcement broad leeway to subjectively decide who, exactly, has a “justifiable need” or even the “suitability” to carry a firearm; that open-ended system is ripe for abuse. From the NYPD licensing division to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, may-issue laws and the arbitrary authority they give to issuing authorities have been proven to be easily abused at the expense of a fundamental civil right. That may not be the justification given by the Supreme Court for striking down New York’s “may issue” statute, but it’s still a compelling reason to rid ourselves of these capricious concealed carry licensing laws.