Former Pasadena Police Lieutenant Agrees to Plead Guilty in Federal Gun Trafficking Case

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A former Pasadena Police Department lieutenant accused of illegally dealing more than 100 guns has agreed to plead guilty to two federal charges, authorities said Friday.

Vasken Gourdikian, a former Pasadena police lieutenant and spokesman, is seen in an undated photo from his Twitter profile.
Vasken Gourdikian, a former Pasadena police lieutenant and spokesman, is seen in an undated photo from his Twitter profile.

Vasken Gourdikian, 48, of Sierra Madre is scheduled to admit to dealing in firearms without a license and making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a written statement. He resigned from the police department, where he served as a public information officer and adjutant to the chief, in March. He was a 22-year veteran of the agency.

“Mr. Gourdikian used 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 a profit,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said. “His actions clearly  violated federal law and introduced unauthorized firearms into the community. By participating in these illegal acts, Gourdikian compromised public safety and violated the public’s trust.”

As a police officer, Gourdikian was able to buy guns not available to the general public. He was also able to circumvent California’s 10-day waiting period for gun purchases, as well as a limit of one gun per month, by asserting that the weapons were needed for law enforcement purposes.

Pasadena City Manager Steve Mermell issued a statement in response to Gourdikian’s planned guilty plea.

“He has not been an active member of our Police Department for more than a year and a half,” Mermell said.

But Gourdikian did remain in his position on paid leave for more than a year after federal agents first served a search warrant at his home, collecting nearly $200,000 in pay, the Pasadena Star-News reported. He resigned in March, shortly after the federal case was filed.

“With respect to the investigation leading to his guilty plea, the city cooperated fully with federal investigators,” Mermell said.  Police officers hold a special place in our society and their actions must be beyond reproach.  In this case, the actions of one former employee are not indicative of the incredible men and women of the Pasadena Police Department.”

U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Los Angeles Field Office Special Agent in Charge Bill McMullan said at least one of the guns sold by Gourdikian was found at a crime scene two months after the sale.

“It is ATF’s duty and obligation to conduct criminal investigations whenever presented with credible evidence of violations of federal firerms law,” McMullan said. “ATF’s mission is to focus our efforts on firearms traffickers and trigger pullers, and we will continue to pursue individuals engaged in this type of activity.

Federal prosecutors initially filed another charge of possession of an unregistered short-barreled rifle, though Gourdikian did not agree to plead guilty to that crime.

The government has agreed to recommend a sentence of 30 months in prison and require Gourdikian to forfeit 68 firearms once he enters his guilty pleas in federal court in Los Angeles on Sept. 20, officials said. But the recommendation is not binding, and the judge could hand down a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

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