Three Charged With Mislabeling Jewelry as Native American–Made

If convicted, the jewelers could be looking at five years and a hefty fine

Three New Mexico jewelers and manufacturers face federal charges for allegedly trying to pass off jewelry produced overseas as Native American–made, a violation of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act.

The IACA, passed in 1990, prohibits the sale of goods that falsely suggest that they are Indian-produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian and Indian tribe. It covers all Native American traditional and contemporary arts and crafts produced after 1935. 

The four-count indictment, unsealed Oct. 28, charges Nael Ali, Mohammad Abed Manasra, and Christina Bowen with conspiracy to violate IACA and three substantive violations of the act. Ali owns two jewelry stores, Gallery 8 and Galleria Azul, in Albuquerque, N.M., that purportedly sell Native American jewelry. Bowen was formerly employed as a store manager by Ali. Manasra is the owner of a company that says it wholesales Native American jewelry.

According to an FBI statement, jewelry sold by the trio was billed as Native American–made but manufactured in the Philippines.

If convicted of the charges against them, the defendants each face a statutory maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The investigation included 15 search warrants executed at retail and wholesale jewelry businesses in New Mexico and California. Philippines National Bureau of Investigations also conducted a series of investigative interviews at two factories in Cebu City, Philippines.

In a statement, Harvey Pratt, chairman of the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, said, “By requiring truth-in-marketing of Indian art and craftwork, the Indian Arts and Crafts 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. Unfair competition from counterfeit Native American art and craftwork seriously erodes the sustainability, vitality, and economic well-being of Indian tribes and their members and businesses.”

JCK News Director