Pennsylvania gun dealer who conspired with Indiana cops will spend 8 years in prison

A Pennsylvania gun dealer caught conspiring with two Indiana cops to sell machine gun parts and highly-regulated laser sights on the black market will spend more than eight years behind bars, federal attorneys said earlier this month.

Authorities took Vahan Kelerchian, 58, into custody immediately upon his sentencing Feb. 5 — more than a year after a jury found him guilty of helping two former Lake County police officers straw purchase 71 Heckler & Koch machine guns and 74 restricted laser aiming sights to sell for a profit online.

“Mr. Kelerchian abused the authority entrusted to him for criminal purposes,” said United States Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch II in a news release earlier this month.  “The eight years that he will spend in federal prison, which began today, should be a deterrent to others similarly situated that act for illegal purposes.”

Kelerchian, owner of Armament Services International in southeastern Pennsylvania, between 2008 and 2010 helped Lake County Sheriffs Department Deputy Chief Joseph Kumstar and Ronald Slusser, a former member of the county’s SWAT team, use the department’s letterhead to buy the guns and laser sights — knowing federal law limits their use to law enforcement and military only, effectively banning civilian ownership.

After intercepting the shipments, the trio dismantled the machine guns — bought for between $1,200 and $1,600 a piece — and sold the individual parts online at triple the price, according to a 2013 indictment filed in Indiana federal court. The laser sights, too, were flipped at a 200 percent mark-up, though all three men allegedly kept some of the procurement for themselves.

Kelerchain was found guilty in October 2016 on seven counts, including conspiracy to make false statements to a federal firearms licensee, conspiracy to defraud the Food and Drug Administration of its regulatory function regarding restricted laser sights, conspiracy to make false statements in demonstration letters, conspiracy to commit money laundering and three counts of making false statements.

In addition to the prison time, Kelerchain will serve a year of supervised released and pay both a $100,000 fine and $28,200 in restitution.

Kumstar will serve up to 57 months behind bars while Slusser faces a 70 month sentence. A fourth accomplice, Edward Kabella, received a 24 month sentence for his involvement, according to federal authorities.

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