SAN DIEGO – A local man who helped deal unlicensed firearms and conducted straw purchases with former San Diego County Sheriff’s Captain Marco Garmo and others was sentenced in federal court Friday to six months in custody and six months of home confinement, prosecutors said.

Giovanni “Gio” Tilotta, the owner of firearms dealer Honey Badger Firearms in Kearny Mesa, was found guilty last September, Kelly Thornton with the Office of the United States Attorney Southern District of California. His conviction is the first federal criminal conviction of a civilian retail gun store owner in the Southern District of California in more than two decades.

Officials say Tilotta conspired with Garma, as well as San Diego jeweler Leo Hamel and others to make false statements in the acquisition of firearms.

“According to evidence presented at trial, Garmo and another Sheriff’s deputy falsely claimed to be the actual purchasers of new handguns, while really intending to transfer the weapons to other individuals who were the true buyers—notably including Hamel,” Thornton said.

Additional evidence revealed Tilotta aided Garmo’s unlicensed firearms trafficking enterprise, which included Garmo buying and reselling dozens of firearms both for-profit and to bank favors for his anticipated campaign for Sheriff of San Diego County. Tilotta’s criminal conduct consisted of 24 different firearms, according to court papers.

Tilotta continued his unlicensed gun trafficking enterprise, despite an explicit warning from the California Department of Justice in December 2015, prosecutors said.

Garmo was sentenced to two years in prison for engaging in the business of dealing in firearms without a license on Sept. 15, 2020, while Hamel was sentenced to home confinement for aiding and abetting Garmo’s unlicensed dealing on Nov. 22, 2019, per officials.