Two Southern California men have pleaded guilty in a conspiracy that operated an illegal business that built and sold unserialized AR-15-type firearms — commonly referred to as “ghost guns” — capable of accepting high-capacity magazines, federal prosecutors announced Friday.

The week before they were scheduled to go on trial, the defendants each pleaded guilty Thursday to a charge of conspiracy to engage in the business of manufacturing and dealing in firearms without a license, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The two defendants are Travis Schlotterbeck, 37, of Fountain Valley, and James Bradley Vlha, 29, of Norco. The scheme was based at two Bellflower businesses controlled by Schlotterbeck called Sign Imaging and Live Fire Coatings. Neither the businesses nor the defendants had a federal firearms license to engage in the manufacture or sale of firearms.

According to documents filed in Los Angeles federal court, Schlotterbeck and Vlha admitted that they took custom orders for AR-15-type firearms — both rifles and pistols — which they then manufactured and sold to undercover operatives with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

As part of the scheme that lasted from 2015 through 2017, Schlotterbeck and Vhla sold six of the ghost guns to ATF undercover agents and a confidential informant in 2015 and 2016, charging from $1,500 to $2,000 for each firearm. Both men were charged in a federal grand jury indictment filed in 2019.

In addition to the conspiracy count, Schlotterbeck pleaded guilty to one count of selling a firearm to a convicted felon in relation to the sale of an AR-15-type rifle to the informant while being aware that the informant had previously been convicted of a felony offense, according to prosecutors.

Schlotterbeck and Vlha pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge George Wu, who scheduled sentencing hearings for both defendants on Nov. 17. The conspiracy count carries a penalty of up to five years in federal prison. The charge of selling a firearm to a convicted felon carries a maximum of 10 years in prison, prosecutors said.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.