Southern California Ghost Gun Operators Plead Guilty

Authorities in Southern California announced Friday that two individuals who ran an unauthorized ghost gun manufacturing and distribution business had pleaded guilty to a federal felony.

Travis Schlotterbeck, 37, of Fountain Valley, and James Bradley Velha, 29, of Norco acknowledged, according to the US attorney’s office for the Central District of California, that they took custom orders for AR-15-type rifles in pistol and rifle variations. In the absence of serial numbers, private firearms cannot be traced.

According to prosecutors, Schlotterbeck operated two Bellflower firms called Sign Imaging and Live Fire Coatings. There was no federal weapons license for either the businesses or the defendants involved in the production or sale of firearms.”

Instead of a trial set for next week, the men pled guilty to conspiracy to participate in the business of manufacturing and trading in weapons without a license on Thursday, according to authorities. They had been slated to stand trial next week. According to authorities, Schlotterbeck sold an AR-15-style weapon to a confidential informant while knowing the person had been convicted of an offense. Schlotterbeck pleaded guilty to one count of selling a firearm to a felon.

For the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives’ undercover operatives, Schlotterbeck and Velha allegedly made and sold weapons with high-capacity magazines.

After procuring weapon parts and arranging for their machining for use in the construction of finished firearms, the defendants allegedly “assembled and finished” the firearms for sale without serial numbers or manufacturer markings. These “80 percent lowers” are unfinished lower receivers.

Throughout the years 2015-2017, the scheme was carried out. Prosecutors allege that Schlotterbeck and Vhla sold six of the phantom weapons to undercover ATF officers and an anonymous informant. They charged anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000 for each pistol that they sold.

Prosecutors reported that a federal grand jury indictment was filed against both men in 2019. They will be sentenced on November 17th.

A federal conspiracy charge against Schlotterbeck and Vhla carries a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison, while Schlotterbeck faces up to ten years in jail for selling a firearm to a criminal.

It was not possible to get in touch with the men’s lawyers for comment on Friday.

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