A former Pasadena police lieutenant pleaded guilty Thursday to federal charges of selling at least 108 guns without a license and making false statements during a gun purchase.
Vasken Kenneth Gourdikian, 48, of Sierra Madre, resigned from the Pasadena Police Department in March after a 22-year career, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Under a plea agreement with prosecutors, he is expected to be sentenced Feb. 4 to 30 months in prison, but his attorney said he plans to ask U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson for a more lenient sentence.
“This was not just a hobby — he was a gun dealer,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Chou said outside the courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. The prosecutor said one of the weapons sold by Gourdikian was found at a crime scene but was not used in a crime.
Chou said Gourdikian — who formerly acted as the police department’s spokesman — used his status as a police officer to buy “off-roster” weapons that were not publicly available, and then quickly sold them at a profit to members of the public through third-party transfers.
The ex-officer “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,” according to the plea agreement.
Gourdikian also admitted falsely certifying on an official form that he was the buyer of a firearm when he had already agreed to sell the weapon.
“The public was never in danger at all,” Mark Werksman, Gourdikian’s attorney, told reporters. “If he’d paid $25 for a license, he could’ve sold the firearms lawfully. This was a regulatory crime.”
In exchange for Gourdikian’s guilty plea and agreement to forfeit 68 weapons, prosecutors agreed to recommend a prison sentence of 30 months. The recommendation, however, will not be binding on Wilson, who could impose a sentence of up to 15 years in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Werksman said his client deserves a “compassionate” sentence, based on the ex-officer’s “exemplary service record.”
U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said Gourdikian abused 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.”
“His actions clearly violated federal law and introduced unauthorized firearms into the community,” Hanna said. “By his participating in these illegal acts, Gourdikian compromised public safety and violated the public’s trust.”
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