Crime & Justice

Feds say Pasadena police spokesman illegally sold dozens of guns

Former Pasadena Police Department spokesman Lt. Vasken Gourdikian.
Former Pasadena Police Department spokesman Lt. Vasken Gourdikian.
Pasadena Police Department, via NBC L.A.

A police lieutenant and department spokesman used his job to get around California's strict gun laws in order to resell dozens of guns without a license, federal prosecutors said Friday.

Pasadena Police Lt. Vasken Gourdikian was arrested Friday morning and charged with illegally selling more than 100 firearms between March 2014 and February 2017.

Gourdikian, 48, of Sierra Madre, was released on a $100,000 bond after pleading not guilty Friday in federal court in Los Angeles. His attorney, Mark Geragos, said the charges were "misguided and truly an abuse of the supposed discretion of the government."

Gourdikian used his status as a police officer to buy guns that weren't available to the general public and then re-sold the guns, prosecutors said.

As a police officer, he was able to purchase 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, authorities said.

Gourdikian posted on online gun message boards that he had weapons that were brand new and in the box, court documents said.

The investigation against Gourdikian began during a routine analysis of sales and trace reports by agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to Bill McMullan, the special agent in charge of the ATF field office in Los Angeles.

"As alleged in the indictment, Mr. Gourdikian used his position as a law enforcement officer to buy firearms from gun dealers that the general public could not. He then repeatedly sold those firearms at a profit," McMullan said.

Vowing to vigorously fight the charges, Geragos said statements made by federal officials about his client were "better suited for a political rally." Gourdikian had a long, unblemished law enforcement career, the defense attorney said.

ATF agents raided Gourdikian's home last year and seized 62 firearms, including an unregistered short-barreled rifle, officials said.

He was also charged with possessing an unregistered gun and falsely claiming on federal firearms forms that he was buying a gun for himself, even though he had already agreed to sell the weapon to someone else, prosecutors said.

Gourdikian, who had been on paid leave for about a year, will no longer be paid by the police department, officials said Friday. The department is also conducting an internal review but that is now "on hold pending the outcome of the criminal investigation," police said in a statement.

Pasadena City Manager Steve Mermell said Gourdikian's arrest was "damaging" to the city and the police department.

"Trust in our law enforcement is critical to effective policing and our officers must be beyond reproach," he said.

This story has been updated.