California men who sold ghost guns plead guilty

Two Southern California men who ran an unlicensed business that made and sold ghost weapons have pleaded guilty to federal charges, authorities said Friday.

Travis Schlotterbeck, 37, of Fountain Valley, and James Bradley Vlha, 29, of Norco, admitted they have accepted custom orders for AR-15 firearms in pistol and rifle variants, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California. The privately manufactured firearms have no serial numbers and cannot be traced back.

“The program was based on two Schlotterbeck-controlled Bellflower companies called Sign Imaging and Live Fire Coatings,” prosecutors said. “Neither the companies nor the defendants had a federal firearms license to engage in the manufacture or sale of firearms.”

The men, who were due to appear in court next week, pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiracy to engage in the business of manufacturing and dealing in firearms without a license, prosecutors said. Schlotterbeck also pleaded guilty to selling a firearm to a convicted felon after selling an AR-15 rifle to a confidential informant while aware the person had previously been convicted of a felony, the said prosecutors.

According to court documents, Schlotterbeck and Vlha manufactured the guns, which could hold high-capacity magazines, and sold them to undercover officers with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“The defendants obtained the firearm parts, arranged certain parts – including unfinished lower cases often referred to as ‘80% lowers’ – for machining for use in the construction of finished firearms, and assembled and fabricated the firearms for sale without serial numbers or manufacturer markings,” prosecutors said.

The program lasted from 2015 to 2017. Schlotterbeck and Vhla sold six of the ghost weapons to ATF undercover officers and a confidential informant, prosecutors said. They charged $1,500 to $2,000 per gun.

Both men were indicted in a federal grand jury indictment filed in 2019, prosecutors said. They are due to be sentenced on November 17.

Schlotterbeck and Vhla each face up to five years in prison for conspiracy, and Schlotterbeck faces up to 10 years in prison for selling a firearm to a convicted felon, prosecutors said.

Lawyers for the two men could not be reached for comment Friday. California men who sold ghost guns plead guilty

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