Three Non-Native Men Charged with Fraudulently Selling Filipino-Made Jewelry as American Indian-Made

Gallery 8 in Albuquerque was engaged in selling non-Native made items that were marketed as being American Indian-made

Gallery 8 in Albuquerque was engaged in selling non-Native made items that were marketed as being American Indian-made

Sixteen Search Warrants Executed in New Mexico and California as Part of Continuing Investigation into Alleged Violations of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act

Published October 30, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE – Three New Mexicans have been charged with violating the Indian Arts and Crafts Act (IACA) by conspiring to import and fraudulently sell Filipino-made jewelry as Native American-made.  The indictment charging the three defendants is the result of an ongoing federal investigation led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service into an international scheme to violate the IACA that included a law enforcement operation yesterday during which 16 search warrants were executed in New Mexico and California and related investigative activity took place in the Philippines.

The IACA prohibits the offer or display for sale, or the sale of any good in a manner that falsely suggests that it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian and Indian tribe.  The law is designed to prevent products from being marketed as “Indian made,” when the products are not, in fact, made by Indians.  It covers all Indian and Indian-style traditional and contemporary arts and crafts produced after 1935, and broadly applies to the marketing of arts and crafts by any person in the United States.  IACA provides critical economic benefits for Native American cultural development by recognizing that forgery and fraudulent Indian arts and crafts diminish the livelihood of Native American artists and craftspeople by lowering both market prices and standards.

“American Indian and Alaska Native people have contributed tremendously to the cultural and artistic heritage of our nation and they have an important future that must be protected,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart F. Delery. 

“This case demonstrates our willingness to prosecute those who falsely market products as ‘Indian Made’ and thus undermine the livelihoods of Native American artists and craftspeople, many of whom are responsible for carrying precious spiritual and artistic knowledge from one generation to another.”

“The indictment announced today and yesterday’s enforcement operation are not only about enforcing the law but also about protecting and preserving the cultural heritage of Native Americans,” said U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez.  “The cultural heritage of American Indians is a precious national resource and it is critically important that we provide the proper respect to those whose creations are seen by some as simple retail commodities to be exploited for profit.”

The four-count indictment that was unsealed Thursday, October 29, 2015, charges Nael Ali, 51, and Mohammad Abed Manasra, 53, both of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Christina Bowen, 41, of Los Lunas, New Mexico, with conspiracy to violate IACA and three substantive violations of the Act.  Ali is the owner of two jewelry stores, Gallery 8 and Galleria Azul, in Albuquerque’s Old Town that purport to specialize in the sale of Native American jewelry.  Bowen was formerly employed as a store manager by Ali.  Manasra holds himself out as a wholesaler of Native American jewelry.

Ali was arrested in Albuquerque Wednesday and Bowen surrendered to the U.S. Marshals Service Thursday morning.  Both made their initial appearances in federal court in Albuquerque this morning and were released pending trial. Manasra was arrested yesterday in La Habra, Calif., and will be transferred to the District of New Mexico to face the charges against him.  If convicted of the charges against them, the defendants each face a statutory maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000.00 fine. Charges in indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty in a court of law.

During Wednesday’s law enforcement operation and as part of the continuing investigation, federal agents executed 15 search warrants in New Mexico and one in California.  Eight of the search warrants were executed in Albuquerque including four at retail and wholesale jewelry businesses.  In addition, search warrants were executed at three jewelry stores in Gallup, three jewelry stores in Santa Fe, and a jewelry production shop in Zuni.  Federal agents also executed a search warrant at a jewelry store in Calistoga, California.

The case was investigated by the Office of Law Enforcement for the Southwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with assistance from the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Marshals Service, DEA and New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement for Region Eight and California Department of Fish and Wildlife provided support in Calistoga, Calif., and HSI provided support in La Habra, Calif.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Attaché for Southeast Asia and the Philippine National Bureau of Investigations provided support in Cebu City, Philippines.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristopher N. Houghton is prosecuting the case.

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