Charged with illegally trafficking “off roster” guns and lying on ATF form
A Sierra Madre man who until earlier this year served as a lieutenant in the Pasadena Police Department (PPD) has agreed to plead guilty to two federal felony offenses related to the illegal sale of more than 100 firearms over the course of three years.
Vasken Kenneth Gourdikian, 48-years-old, who resigned from the PPD in March after a 22-year career, has signed a plea agreement that was filed this morning in U.S. District Court.
Gourdikian agreed to plead guilty to engaging in the business of dealing in firearms without a license, and making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm.
Gourdikian has agreed to appear before U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson on Sept. 20 to formally enter guilty pleas to the two felony offenses.
From March 2014 through February 2017, Gourdikian sold at least 108 firearms without a license. Gourdikian used his official status as a police officer to purchase firearms that were not available to the general public and then sold restricted firearms, known as “off roster” firearms, through third-party transfers to members of the public. Gourdkian would often highlight the unique status of “off roster” firearms in order to solicit a buyer’s interest and to generate higher sale prices. “Many of the firearms [the] defendant sold were ‘off roster’ firearms, that is, firearms that defendant’s non-law enforcement customers could not have purchased directly from a licensed firearms dealer,” according to the plea agreement.
While police officers were not prohibited from selling “off roster” firearms to members of the general public, Gourdikian “made a business of dealing firearms without a license, in part, by abusing exemptions made available to him under California law as a sworn peace officer,” he admitted in the plea agreement.
The false statement offense relates to an ATF “re-certification” form Gourdikian signed in 2014 when he took possession of a handgun. Gourdikian admitted in the plea agreement that he “misrepresented that he was the actual buyer of a firearm when, in fact, and as defendant then well knew, he was purchasing the firearm for another individual.” Gourdikian admitted that he re-sold the gun to another person on the same day he acquired it from the gun dealer.
Gourdikian further admitted that he “capitalized on his peace officer status” that allowed him to circumvent the usual 10-day waiting period and enabled him to purchase more than one handgun in a 30-day period.
“Mr. Gourdikian used his position as a law enforcement officer to purchase firearms generally not available to the public so he could turn around and illegally sell them for profit,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna. “His actions clearly violated federal law and introduced unauthorized firearms into the community. By his participating in these illegal acts, Gourdikian compromised public safety and violated the public’s trust.”
“It is ATF’s duty and obligation to conduct criminal investigations whenever presented with credible evidence of violations of federal firearms laws,” said ATF Los Angeles Field Division (LAFD) Special Agent in Charge Bill McMullan. “Through analysis conducted by ATF’s Crime Gun Intelligence Center, it was discovered that one of the firearms sold by Gourdikian was recovered at a crime scene two months after its purchase, increasing the risk to the public and law enforcement personnel. ATF’s mission is to focus our efforts on firearms traffickers and trigger pullers and we will continue to pursue individuals engaged in this type of illegal activity.”
In the plea agreement, the government, in exchange for Gourdikian’s acceptance of responsibility and agreement to forfeit 68 firearms, has agreed to recommend a prison sentence of 30 months. This recommendation, however, will not be binding on Judge Wilson, who could impose a sentence of up to 15 years in prison after Gourdikian pleads guilty to the two charges.
This matter is being investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elisa Fernandez of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section and Jennifer Chou of the Violent and Organized Crime Section.
Steve Mermell, Pasadena city manager, issued the following statement regarding the case: “We are aware of the news today (last Friday) of former Lieutenant Gourdikian’s intent to plead guilty to federal firearm offenses. He has not been an active member of our Police Department for more than a year and a half. With respect to the investigation leading to his guilty plea, the city cooperated fully with federal investigators. Police officers hold a special place in our society and their actions must be beyond reproach. In this case, the actions of one former employee are not indicative of the incredible men and women of the Pasadena Police Department.”