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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Central District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, February 25, 2019

Ex-Pasadena Police Lieutenant Sentenced to One Year in Federal Prison for Unlicensed Selling of Firearms and Lying on ATF Form

          LOS ANGELES – A former lieutenant in the Pasadena Police Department was sentenced today to one year and one day in federal prison for exploiting his status as a police officer to engage in the unlicensed sale of more than 100 firearms and for making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm.

          Vasken Kenneth Gourdikian, 50, of Sierra Madre, was sentenced by United States District Judge Stephen V. Wilson, who also ordered Gourdikian to pay a $10,000 fine.

          Judge Wilson said he didn’t find credible Gourdikian’s claims of being “a hobbyist who got out of control.” In imposing the prison sentence, Judge Wilson noted, “This was a way for him to make money.”

          In September 2018, Gourdikian pleaded guilty to federal charges of engaging in the business of dealing in firearms without a license and making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm.

          Gourdikian engaged in the unlicensed sale of at least 108 firearms between March 2014 and February 2017 and used his official status as a police officer to purchase restricted “off roster” firearms. “Off roster” firearms are firearms that in California are not available for purchase by the general public directly from a licensed federal firearms dealer. While police officers are not prohibited from selling “off roster” firearms to the general public, Gourdikian unlawfully engaged in the business of selling firearms without a license.

          In advertisements to sell firearms that he posted to an online firearms marketplace, Gourdikian sought to increase the purchase price and desirability of his firearms by describing them as “off roster,” “BNIB” (brand new in box), and “never fired.” Gourdikian admitted in his plea agreement that 80 of the 108 firearms were “off roster” firearms he sold in third-party transactions to non-law enforcement customers. Had Gourdikian possessed a federal firearms license, he would have been unable to sell nearly 75 percent of the 108 firearms he admitted to selling because California law prohibits federal firearms licensees from selling “off roster” firearms to non-law enforcement buyers, court papers state.

          Gourdikian also abused his law enforcement position in other ways to benefit his gun-selling scheme. He admitted to circumventing the usual 10-day waiting period required for firearms purchases by using his position as police officer to bypass this state law. Because California law also exempts law enforcement from a general rule that prohibits the purchase of more than one firearm within a 30-day period, Gourdikian often purchased multiple firearms in a single transaction as a means of restocking his sales inventory. Gourdikian re-sold 79 firearms within six days after he purchased them, according to the government’s sentencing memorandum.

          Another one of Gourdikian’s admitted offenses was making a false statement on a “re-certification” form for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that he signed in 2014 when he took possession of a handgun. He misrepresented on the form that he was the buyer of a firearm when he actually purchased it for another individual, according to his plea agreement. Gourdikian re-sold the gun to another person on the same day he bought it from a gun dealer, court documents state. The purpose of this form is to ensure community safety by allowing law enforcement to monitor who purchases firearms and to track the sales of guns.

          Highlighting the danger of Gourdikian’s conduct, court filings also described how, in 2016, one of the firearms that Gourdikian purchased was recovered by local police at the site of a narcotics investigation.

          “Mr. Gourdikian’s side business of selling off-roster firearms violated federal law and endangered the public,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna. “Police officers are permitted to purchase off-roster weapons for their own use and protection, but the law was not designed to give officers a lucrative second career as unlicensed firearms dealers flooding our communities with weapons not available to the general public.”

          “The goal of ATF’s illegal firearms trafficking enforcement efforts is to reduce violent crime by stemming the flow of firearms to prohibited individuals,” said the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives (ATF) Los Angeles Field Division Special Agent in Charge Carlos A. Canino. “ATF’s Crime Gun Intelligence Center routinely looks at crime guns recovered at scenes and multiple purchases by individuals. Through analysis, ATF discovered this individual was engaged in the business of dealing in firearms without a license which is a federal violation.”

          This matter was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

          This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Elisa Fernandez of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section and Jennifer Chou of the Violent and Organized Crime Section.

Contact: 
Ciaran McEvoy Public Information Officer United States Attorney’s Office Central District of California (Los Angeles) (213) 894-4465
Press Release Number: 
19-031
Updated February 25, 2019