The Pasadena Weekly has learned that the city recently turned over documents and emails to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) pertaining to the federal investigation of a Pasadena police lieutenant suspected of illegally selling weapons online.
According to a source familiar with the investigation, the ATF’s probe has mirrored information recently published in this newspaper regarding Lt. Vasken Gourdikian, including the police veteran’s alleged efforts to sell weapons online and an alleged attempt to sell a weapon to a civilian after a 2013 department fundraiser for the Police Athletic League held in Glendale.
Gourdikian was suspended with pay last February after ATF officials contacted the department about its investigation.
Gourdikian appears to have sold dozens of weapons on calguns.net, a website for gun enthusiasts that allows private deals.
Gourdikian, has not commented on the ATF probe.
On Feb. 16, ATF agents confiscated 57 weapons from Gourdikian’s Sierra Madre home.
It was not known if the documents acquired by the ATF were subpoenaed or willingly turned over by the Police Department. The Pasadena Weekly filed a Public Records Act request with the city and the department for all correspondence between the ATF and city officials regarding the document transfer. However, that request was not honored.
Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez would not confirm the transfer of documents, but said the department continues to cooperate with the investigation.
“The Pasadena Police Department continues to comply with all requests by the ATF,” Sanchez said. “The employee in question was sent home as soon as the city became aware of the federal investigation. We are continuing our own investigation.”
Federal authorities believe Gourdikian had been selling guns without a required license to private parties online at the website calguns.net.
The Pasadena Weekly was the first media outlet to identify Gourdikian as the officer being investigated. The city still has not officially commented on the matter or even identified Gourdikian as the officer under investigation.
“I can tell you there is an ongoing investigation,” ATF spokesperson Ginger Colbrun said last week. “I cannot provide any further details.”
In June, the Pasadena Weekly reported Gourdikian was selling off-roster weapons without a federal firearms license on calguns.net under the username vgourdik.
Off-roster weapons are handguns that civilians are not legally allowed to possess. Law enforcement agents can buy off-roster weapons, but they cannot purchase them with the intent to resell them.
In order to sell an off-roster weapon, an officer must have a federal firearms license. Private transactions of weapons are allowed, but if the seller is operating as a dealer, or regularly selling weapons to make a profit, then the seller must have a federal license.
All told, Gourdikian listed weapons for sale on calguns.net 19 times in 2016, sometimes making sales just days from the posting. Several listings were posted during business hours, but it was not immediately known if any of the listings were created from the Pasadena Police Department or if Gourdikian was working on those days.
Gourdikian was promoted to lieutenant and department spokesman that same year.
Many of the weapons were listed as brand new in the box, or BNIB. On several of the listings, the posts were updated after the transaction was finalized making it almost impossible to track the amount Gourdikian made on the website.
One of those weapons, a Glock 43, is the same type of weapon Gourdikian sought to purchase using a waiver request from Sanchez, asking stores in Los Angeles and Orange counties to forget about the 10-day waiting period to buy guns.
Gourdikian received the waiver on May 21 and seven days later sold a Glock 43 on calguns.net.
All told, Gourdikian received six letters from Sanchez recommending that he be allowed to immediately purchase several weapons from various dealers, including a Colt Commander 45mm handgun, a .380 caliber Glock 42 handgun, three Springfield Armory handguns and a Glock 43 weapon.
It was not immediately known if the dealers accepted the recommendations from the chief.
Each of the letters contains a line that explicitly claims the weapons will not be resold.
“The weapon that is being purchased will be used off duty and is not being purchased for resale,” states the letters signed by Sanchez. The 10-day waiting period is used to conduct a background check of prospective buyers. It is routinely waived for law enforcement officials.
On May 21, 2015, Gourdikian received a recommendation letter asking for a waiver on the purchase of a Glock 43.
“BNIB, please use PM [private message] function. Bad timing must sell. Will drive a reasonable distance from Los Angeles County, buyer pays the ppt,” the ad stated.
The weapon was purchased, but the price paid was not immediately known.
Another letter recommended that Gourdikian be allowed to purchase an AR-15 assault rifle. The AR-15 is listed in the ATF inventory of weapons seized at Gourdikian’s home in February. The Glock 43 was not listed.
The Glock 43 was not the only weapon Gourdikian tried to sell online. The only difference in those cases was waiting period waivers were not issued by the department.
On Nov. 5, 2016, Gourdikian — again under the username vgourdik — advertised a 40-caliber Sig Sauer tactical operations weapon on calguns.net, in a listing titled, “Sig Sauer Tac Ops, Pasadena, No ship/off roster.”
In the listing for that weapon, Gourdikian wrote, “Other info: Weapon is bnib, never fired, been sitting in safe, off roster, no LCI [loaded chamber indicator], no mag disconnect safety comes with original box, manual, lock and [three] mags, restricted to 10 rounds capacity, plz pm for questions, will travel reasonable distance.”
The Pasadena Weekly could not determine the price that the weapon sold for because the listing was updated on Dec. 7, 2016, to SPF, or “sold pending funds.”
According to his profile on the site, Gourdikian made no effort to hide his work as a police officer, but never spoke specifically about his department. Gourdikian joined the site in 2013.
City officials have claimed that Gourdikian did not attempt to sell weapons while performing duties on behalf of the department.
However, a complaint was filed against Gourdikian in 2013 stemming from an allegation that he tried to sell an off roster to a civilian during a Blue Smoke fundraiser for the Police Athletic League.
According to a source with knowledge of the investigation, the weapon was a 1911 Colt pistol designed for military use.