Veteran Pasadena Police Lieutenant May Have Illegally Sold Large Number of Guns Through Website

Former Pasadena Police spokesperson may have sold dozens of “off roster” guns on weapons website; ATF claims violation of Federal law to justify search of his home

Published : Friday, June 2, 2017 | 5:15 AM

Pasadena Police Lt. Vasken Gourdikian

Pasadena Police Lieutenant Vasken Gourdikian, the former public information officer and spokesperson for the Pasadena Police Department, a member of the force for nearly 20 years — now said to be under investigation by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) — sold a large number of “off roster” guns on an online site monitored by federal agents for at least three years before authorities moved in and raided his Sierra Madre home earlier this year, according to a story by André Coleman published Thursday in The Pasadena Weekly.

Off-roster weapons cannot be purchased by regular citizens, but can be purchased by police officers. In order to sell an off-roster weapon, an officer must have a federal firearms license. Private transactions of weapons are allowed, but if the seller is operating as a dealer, or regularly selling weapons to make a profit, then the seller must have a federal license.

According to the Weekly story, Gourdikian — under the username vgourdik — advertised a 40-caliber Sig Sauer tactical operations weapons in November of last year on Calguns.net, a gun sales website, in a listing titled, “Sig Sauer Tac Ops, Pasadena, No ship/off roster.”

Gourdikian reportedly wrote in offering the weapon for sale, “Other info: Weapon is bnib [brand new in box], never fired, been sitting in safe, off roster, no LCI [loaded chamber indicator], no mag disconnect safety comes with original box, manual, lock and [three] mags, restricted to 10 rounds capacity, plz pm [private message] for questions, will travel reasonable distance.”

It is unknown how much the final price of the weapon was, the Weekly said.

Gourdikian, who joined the site in 2013, and did not hide that he was a member of the Pasadena Police Department, listed weapons for sale on the site 19 times in 2016, sometimes just days apart, the Weekly report said.

Several listings by vgourdik were posted during business hours, but it was not immediately known if any of the listings were created from the Pasadena Police Department, or if Gourdikian was working on those particular days, according to the Weekly story.

The Weekly report said it could not be determined through their research how many of the guns were actually sold through the listings; however, in a report issued earlier this month, ATF officials listed 57 weapons removed from Gourdikian’s home during the Feb. 16 search of his Sierra Madre home. The cache included 34 pistols worth $27,900 and 23 rifles worth $23,500. The weapons included a close-quarter combat pistol valued at $3,800 and a semiautomatic rifle valued at $2,000. At least 18 of those weapons were off-roster guns.

In that notice, the bureau indicated their position that the longtime Pasadena police officer had violated federal law.

“The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives [ATF] gives notice that the property listed below was seized for federal forfeiture for violation of federal law,” the document states, but does not indicate what laws the agency believes were broken.

A person convicted of unlawfully engaging in the business of dealing in firearms without a license is subject to imprisonment for not more than five years and could face a $250,000 fine. It is also unlawful for any person to make a false statement on a firearms transaction record, such as claiming to possess a license, on ATF Form 4473, when acquiring a firearm.

A person is also prohibited from claiming they are the buyer or a gun is being transferred to them if the firearm is acquired with the intent to sell or is being acquired for someone else. Conviction on making a false statement on a federal firearms license could lead to a 10-year sentence and a separate $250,000 fine.

On June 20 of last year, according to the Weekly story , Gourdikian also listed an off-roster Sig Sauer MK25 9 millimeter handgun on June 20 of last year, which also eventually sold.

In October 2015, the weapon for sale was an off-roster Colt rail gun.

Gourdikian never shipped merchandise, and seemed to limit his weapons to nearby buyers, offering to drive an undefined “reasonable distance” to complete transactions, according to the Weekly article.

According to ATF spokesperson Ginger Colbrun, transactions across state lines must be processed by a seller holding a valid federal license in the buyer’s home state. The seller would also be mandated to undergo a background check. The ATF investigates the illegal possession and sale of firearms. ATF officials have refused to comment on the investigation.

The February search warrant raid was conducted by ATF officers. The Pasadena Police Department did not take part in the search of Gourdikian’s home. Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez was notified the night before the raid.

Sanchez told the Pasadena Weekly that the department has opened an internal affairs investigation into Gourdikian.

According to Pasadena Public Information William Boyer, Gourdikian remains employed but is currently out on paid leave pending the results of the investigations by the Police Department and the ATF.

“I can only say Gourdikian is on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal affairs review,” and the ATF investigation and he remains an employee of the Pasadena Police Department,” Boyer said.

The ATF denied requests from both the Pasadena Weekly and Pasadena Now for a copy of the federal search warrant under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

On March 31, the ATF sent a memo to police chiefs and sheriffs in Southern California informing them that the agency was concerned about law enforcement officers buying and reselling guns in what could be a violation of federal firearms laws.

The memo from Eric Harden, the ATF’s Los Angeles field division special agent in charge, did not mention Gourdikian by name, but expressed concerns about “the growing trend of law enforcement officials engaging in the business of unlicensed firearms dealing.” Harden cited the issue as an “emerging problem.”

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