New Mexico sellers sentenced to $300K fine for fake Native American jewelry

Crime

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Dealers selling fake Native American jewelry and goods were charged in federal court Wednesday. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Mexico says Jawad Khalaf, 72, of Albuquerque, Nashat Khalaf, 73, of Gallup, Sterling Islands, Inc., a wholesale jewelry business in Albuquerque, and Al-Zuni Global Jewelry, Inc., a wholesale jewelry business in Gallup were sentenced in federal court Wednesday.

“The Land of Enchantment’s identity and economy relies heavily on Indian art and culture,” said Meridith Stanton in a news release from the Attorney’s Office, Director of the Indian Arts and Crafts Board (IACB), U.S. Department of the Interior.

According to the same news release, Jawad and Nashat were sentenced to two years’ supervised release and Jawad must also perform 100 hours of community service. Sterling Islands Inc. was sentenced to five years’ probation and 50 hours community service, while Al-Zuni Global Jewelers, Inc. was sentenced to five years’ probation and 20 hours community service. Collectively, the defendants will pay $300,000 to the Indian Arts and Crafts Board and forfeit their interests in $288,738.94 seized by investigators in the case.

In April, the defendants pled guilty to misrepresentation of Indian-produced goods and services as part of a scheme to import Native American-style jewelry from the Philippines and sell it to customers in the U.S. as authentic. 

 “I want to express my appreciation for the hard work of the investigators and prosecutors who brought this case to conclusion,’ said John C. Anderson in the same news release, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico. “It is the culmination of countless hours of diligent work and cooperation among our partnering law enforcement agencies on behalf of Native American artists and artisans. We stand ready to bring the power of the law to bear upon those seeking to profit from cultural theft.”

The office says the Office of Law Enforcement for the Southwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service led the investigation of this case with assistance from the Albuquerque Division of the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.  They also said assistant U.S. Attorneys Jonathon Gerson, Sean J. Sullivan, Kristopher N. Houghton, and Stephen R. Kotz prosecuted the case.  

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