Anyone who watches the popular Antiques Roadshow television program on PBS knows that American Indian artifacts and other more recent products made by Native Americans can be quite valuable.
Unfortunately scam artists and swindlers are also aware that there is money to be made in this area and they are using illegal methods to gain an unfair advantage and separate uninformed buyers from their money.
Often times the swindlers and counterfeiters are in violation of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act. The law is intended to prevent products from being marketed as “Indian made” when the items are not, in fact, made by Indians.
Made in the Philippines
A recent case in New Mexico and California resulted in three individuals being charged with crimes for importing jewelry made in the Philippines and selling it to unwary customers as Native American products.
Some of the bogus products were offered for sale at a jewelry store in the Old Town section of Albuquerque, New Mexico, that claimed it specialized in the sale of Native American jewelry.
In addition, law enforcement agents employed 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.
Search warrants were also used at three jewelry stores in Gallup, New Mexico, three jewelry stores in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and a jewelry production shop in Zuni. Federal agents also executed a search warrant at a jewelry store in Calistoga, Calif.
Seizure warrants served
Federal seizure warrants were dropped on bank accounts in Charlotte, North Carolina, and San Francisco, California.
Authorities in the Philippines are looking into the operations of two factories in Cebu City, Philippines.
The three individuals charged with Indian Arts and Crafts Act violations face a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000.00 fine if convicted.
The investigation was led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Such actions are illegal for several reasons. Not only is the law designed to protect buyers, but it is also intended to provide economic benefits to Native American communities and individuals, and also to protect their cultural legacy, which is an integral part of American society.