Two men have pleaded guilty to operating an illegal business that built and sold “ghost guns” in Bellflower.
The defendants – Travis Schlotterbeck, 37, of Fountain Valley, and James Bradley Vlha, 29, of Norco – pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to engage in the business of manufacturing and dealing in firearms without a license a week before they were scheduled to go on trial.
The conspiracy, which operated from 2015 to 2017, was based at two Bellflower businesses controlled by Schlotterbeck called Sign Imaging and Live Fire Coatings. Neither the defendants nor their connected businesses had a federal firearms license to engage in the manufacture or sale of firearms.
The defendants admitted they took six custom orders for AR-15-type firearms which they then manufactured and sold to undercover operatives and a confidential informant with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in 2015 and 2016, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The pair had assembled and finished the firearms for sale – charging from $1,500 to $2,000 for each firearm – without any serial numbers or manufacturer markings, which is what earned the weapons the “ghost guns” moniker.
Both men were charged in a federal grand jury indictment filed in 2019.
Schlotterbeck also pleaded guilty to one count of selling a firearm to a convicted felon. The ATF’s confidential informant previously had been convicted of a felony offense, which Schlotterbeck was aware of at the time of sale, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Both defendants face a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison for the conspiracy count. Schlotterbeck faces an additional 10 years in prison for selling a firearm to a convicted felon.
The sentencing hearings for both defendants are scheduled for November 17.