Federal Investigation Charges International Scheme to Fraudulently Sell Jewelry as Native-American Made

Last edited 09/29/2021

In the largest law enforcement operation yet under Interior’s Indian Arts and Crafts Board, several New Mexicans have been charged with conspiring to import Filipino-made jewelry and fraudulently sell it as Native American-made. 

The U.S. Department of Justice announced at a press conference in Albuquerque on October 29 that 16 search warrants were issued at jewelry stores in New Mexico and California and that factories in the Philippines also were investigated. Led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the investigation uncovered an international scheme to violate the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990.

The announcement put the spotlight on the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, an agency that works  behind the scenes with law enforcement officials to implement and enforce the 1990 Act, a truth-in-advertising law that provides criminal and civil penalties for marketing products as "Indian-made" when such products are not made by Indians, as defined by the Act.

“As Chairman of the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, U.S. Department of the Interior, I want to convey the Board’s deep appreciation for the outstanding leadership and contributions provided by the U.S Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with the other agency partners who participated in bringing this landmark enforcement action under the Indian Arts and Crafts Act,” said Chairman Harvey Pratt of the Indian Arts and Crafts Board.  “By requiring truth-in-marketing of Indian art and craftwork, the Act is intended to protect Native American artists and artisans who rely heavily on the production and sale of traditional and contemporary art and craftworks to provide their economic livelihood, preserve their rich heritage, and pass along their unique culture from generation to generation.”

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