Proceeds from Pasadena Police Department fundraisers ended up in a private bank account and were used by a former Pasadena police officer to buy weapons online, which he later sold illegally, according to court documents obtained by the Pasadena Weekly.
The Weekly has also learned that one of the guns sold online by disgraced former Lt. Vasken Gourdikian was recovered at the scene of a narcotics arrest.
Gourdikian has pleaded guilty to lying on a federal form and selling guns without a license. He is scheduled to appear in court for sentencing on Monday.
As part of a plea agreement, his attorney is requesting a sentence of 30 months in which Gourdikian would not serve time behind bars but instead receive a fine, stay at home and wear an ankle monitor.
Although Gourdikian pleaded guilty to two violations, US District Court Judge Stephen V. Wilson does not have to accept his plea. Had Gourdikian’s case gone to trial, he could have received a 15-year prison sentence if found guilty.
In the sentencing documents, the United States Attorney’s Office is asking the court to send Gourdikian to prison for 30 months.
As explained in the sentencing declaration, Gourdikian “at times used his charity work to further his illegal firearms conduct. In regards to his charity-related fundraising efforts, defendant controlled a Chase Bank account in the name of ‘Gourdikian, dba Gourdikian Blue Smoke.’”
Fundraisers were held under the name Blue Smoke to raise funds for organizations such as the Police Athletic League.
“A review of the bank account shows that defendant co-mingled fundraising/donations with the proceeds of his firearms sales and utilized the account to purchase firearms,” the court document states.
Agents with the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives served a search warrant on Gourdikian at his Sierra Madre home in Februrary 2017 and seized 57 weapons.
Gourdikian was placed on paid administrative leave the night before the search, and collected his regular salary, accumulating more than $191,000 while he sat at home until resigning following his indictment in March 2018.
According to the document, federal agents learned that Gourdikian is financially secure. His net worth exceeds $2 million. Despite pleading guilty, Gourdikian, who served 26 years with the Pasadena department, still qualifies for a pension.
Despite assertions by city officials that Gourdikian did not attempt to sell weapons while performing duties on behalf of the department, the Pasadena Weekly discovered that not only did Gourdikian attempt to make a sale while representing the department, but officials in the department were aware of it.
According to information obtained by this newspaper, in 2014 Gourdikian’s attempted to sell a weapon at a Blue Smoke fundraiser held at Phoenicia Restaurant in Glendale on Central Avenue led to a formal complaint being filed and an investigation being launched.
The complaint surfaced when internal affairs investigators began questioning partygoers about gambling during the event. During the course of that in-house probe, police detectives were made aware that Gourdikian attempted to sell a 1911 Colt pistol designed for military use.
It is not known if anything came from the gambling complaint. Gourdikian was promoted to lieutenant in 2016 and then named department spokesman later that year.
The federal court documents confirmed new details about the case:
• Gourdikian sold 141 firearms from March 15, 2014 to Feb. 9, 2017. He admits to 108 unlawful sales.
• Gourdikian claims he has “an escalating addiction to collecting firearms,” and claims he should be afforded supervised release and counseling for his addiction.
• Gourdikian not only sold a shotgun to an undercover agent for $700, but another weapon he sold showed up at a narcotics crime scene less than three months after Gourdikian purchased the weapon on Feb. 27, 2016. No further details were provided on the May 6, 2016 drug investigation.
• Gourdikian sold at least one weapon on Calguns.net, a website for gun enthusiasts, for which former Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez signed a waiver. Sanchez signed several waivers that allowed Gourdikian to purchase weapons without waiting 10 days for gun stores to complete a mandatory background check. Gourdikian signed the waiver under a promise not to sell the weapon. Most California police departments provide similar waivers to their officers.
• In the aforementioned instance, Gourdikian purchased a Glock 43 in 2015 and sold it a week later online. Gourdikian purchased eight additional weapons that day, and picked up the remaining eight after the 10-day waiting period was over. He sold all of the weapons by June 5.
“BNIB [brand new in box], please use PM [private message] function. Bad timing must sell. Will drive a reasonable distance from Los Angeles County, buyer pays the ppt [private party transfer],” the ad for the Glock stated.
Prosecutors would not comment on the sentencing documents when contacted by the Pasadena Weekly.
“We won’t be offering any comment until the matter is settled,” said Thom Mrozek, director of media relations for the United States Attorney’s Office.
In June 2017, The Pasadena Weekly was the first media outlet to report that Gourdikian had sold dozens of firearms on the website Calguns.net without a federal firearms license.
In a number of those transactions, Gourdikian sold off-roster weapons — guns which only police officers can purchase.
Gourdikian regularly listed weapons for sale on Calguns.net, sometimes making sales just days apart. 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 he was working on those days. He used his city email address to sign up for the Calguns website.
Many of the weapons were listed as brand new in the box. On several of the listings, the posts were updated after the transaction was finalized, making it almost impossible to track the amount of money Gourdikian made on the website.
Off-roster weapons can only be purchased by police officers. 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.
One week after Gourdikian resigned, Sanchez left the department.
“Mr. Gourdikian used his positon as a law enforcement officer to purchase firearms generally not available to the public so he could turn around and illegally sell them for profit,” said US Attorney Nick Hanna. “His 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.”
ATF officials first began investigating Gourdikian shortly after one of the firearms showed up at a crime scene.
“It is ATF’s duty and obligation to conduct criminal investigations whenever presented with credible evidence of violations of federal firearms laws,” said Bill McMullen, special agent in charge of the ATF’s Los Angeles Field Division. “Through analysis conducted by ATF’s Crime Gun Intelligence Center, it was discovered that one of the firearms sold by Gourdikian was recovered at a crime scene two months after its purchase, increasing the risk to the public and law enforcement personnel.”
According to the sentencing document, “Gourdikian, like every other member of the public, was required to follow the law, but he knowingly decided to violate it. And his conduct does not justify his requested probationary sentence.”