Dealer’s conviction for machine gun, laser sight sales upheld

A Pennsylvania gun dealer who was convicted of multiple federal counts after he conspired with Lake County law enforcement officers to procure machine guns and laser sights lost his appeal Friday.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Vahan Kelerchian’s conviction on four counts each of conspiracy and making false writings, as well as a money-laundering charge. A jury in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana convicted Kelerchian on all counts except a single bribery charge. He was sentenced to 100 months in prison.

Former Lake County patrolman and SWAT team armorer Ronald Slusser and ex-Deputy Chief Joseph Kumstar of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department also were charged in the conspiracy, pleaded guilty and testified against Kelerchian, who ran a business called Armament Services International,

Inc. Judge David Hamilton wrote that the trio conspired “to fool manufacturers into thinking they were selling to local police forces when the machineguns and laser sights were instead going into private hands.”

Among those sales, the three and Slusser’s cousin in December 2008 ordered 50 machine guns for $83,026 from gunmaker Heckler & Koch. Kumstar provided paperwork on sheriff’s department letterhead saying the weapons were for the department’s exclusive use, and after the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms & Explosives approved the sale, the weapons were altered and resold “for a substantial profit,” Hamilton wrote.

Using a similar conspiracy, the three purchased additional machine guns and laser scopes that were said to be bound for the Lake County Sheriff’s Department and the Lowell, Indiana Police Department.

The 7th Circuit rejected all of Kelerchian’s arguments on appeal in United States of America v. Vahan Kelerchian, 18-1320.

“On appeal, Kelerchian raises numerous issues, but we affirm his convictions on all counts,” Hamilton wrote for the panel in a 41-page order, turning away his arguments of sufficient evidence, improper jury instruction and prosecutorial misconduct during closing arguments.

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