Pasadena Police Lieutenant, Former Spokesman Arrested and Charged with Federal Gun Crimes, Pleads Not Guilty

The federal indictment charges that, from March 2014 through February 2017, Gourdikian sold over 100 firearms without a license

Published : Saturday, March 3, 2018 | 6:55 AM

Lt. Vasken Gourdikian. File photo

More than a year after he was placed on paid leave, the federal government rolled out its case against Pasadena Police Lieutenant Vasken Gourdikian.

Gourdikian, 48, of Sierra Madre, surrendered Friday morning to federal authorities.

He pleaded not guilty Friday afternoon at an arraignment before Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Chooljian in Los Angeles on federal charges of selling guns without a federal firearms license, making false statements on Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives forms, and possessing an unregistered short-barreled rifle.

Gourdikian was named by a federal grand jury on Thursday in the four-count indictment.

If convicted of all charges, Gourdikian faces a maximum of 35 years in federal prison.

“He’s committed to fighting the charges against him,” said Robert Kalunian, who appeared for lead attorney Mark Geragos.

Kalunian steadfastly refused to answer reporters’ questions after the hearing.

Soon after the hearing, Gourdikian’s paid suspension was expected to end as Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez announced Gourdikian will remain suspended without pay due to the federal charges.

“The allegations, if true, are concerning,” Sanchez said in a statement. “We continue to cooperate with federal authorities and are continuing our Internal Affairs investigation into this matter.”

That move was telegraphed by Assistant. U.S. Attorney Elisa Fernandez who told the Judge Chooljian several times during the hearing as she argued against releasing Gourdikian on his own recognizance that he was “about to lose his salary.”

Gourdikian was a rising star in the Pasadena Police Department, replacing former Press Information Officer Tracey Ibarra as the department’s spokesperson and Chief Sanchez’s adjutant. He was a constant presence at city events.

But according to the indictment, Gourdikian was also selling a massive amount of weapons.

The indictment states that in June 2015, Gourdikian allegedly sold eight firearms in Duarte. 17 months later he again sold eight weapons in that area. It is not known if the same person purchased the weapons each time.

In May 2016, he allegedly sold multiple weapons in Hacienda Heights.

Gourdikian, who had been on paid administrative leave with the City of Pasadena since February 2017, was to be notified and placed on leave without pay, according to the Pasadena Police Department.

The federal indictment claims that Gourdikian sold more 100 guns without a license between March 2014 and February 2017, when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms served a federal warrant on his Sierra Madre home.

Gourdikian apparently sold hundreds of off-roster weapons on a website called Calguns.net under the user name vgourdik.
Off-roster weapons are handguns that civilians are not legally allowed to possess. Law enforcement agents can buy off-roster weapons, but they cannot purchase them with the intent to resell them.

According to the federal indictment, Gourdikian twice lied on federal forms and said he was the buyer of weapons he promised to sell.

An officer must have a federal firearms license to legally sell an off-roster weapon.

“Bringing a case against a law enforcement officer is never pleasant, but we hold public safety and a commitment to justice above everything,” said Bill McMullan, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF Los Angeles Field Division.

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