LOS ANGELES (AP) — A former Southern California police lieutenant who also acted as a department spokesman has agreed to plead guilty in connection with the illegal sale of more than 100 guns, prosecutors said Friday.
Former Pasadena Police Lt. Vasken Gourdikian of Sierra Madre signed an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty on Sept. 20 to dealing in firearms without a license and lying during a gun purchase.
Prosecutors say Gourdikian used his job to get around California’s strict gun laws to resell at least 108 guns between 2014 and 2017.
As an officer, they say Gourdikian was able to buy so-called “off-roster” handguns, which aren’t available to the public and aren’t listed in a catalog of certified handguns maintained by the state.
Although police officers aren’t prohibited from selling off-roster guns to members of the public, Gourdikian “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 resigned in March after a 22-year career.
Mark Werksman, Gourdikian’s attorney, said his client didn’t’ realize he was breaking the law “but sees now that’s what he did.”
Gourdikian is a firearms enthusiast who had a large and growing collection for his own personal use, and inadvertently became an unlicensed firearms dealer by buying and selling so many guns in a relatively short period of time, Werksman said, calling his client’s actions “a regulatory crime.”
“If he had gone out and gotten a $25 license to be a firearms dealer, none of this would have happened,” he said.
Prosecutors say they plan to request a prison sentence of 30 months but Werksman said he’ll be asking that Gourdikian get probation.
“This is a man with an exemplary service record who spent his entire adult life serving his community admirably and without blemish,” he said.
One of the guns that Gourdikian sold was recovered at a crime scene two months after it had been purchased, said Bill McMullan, special agent in charge of the Los Angeles field division of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Explosives.
U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said in a statement that Gourdikian’s “actions clearly violated federal law and introduced unauthorized firearms into the community.
“By his participating in these illegal acts, Gourdikian compromised public safety and violated the public’s trust,” Hanna said.
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