Two jewelry vendors may learn the high price of selling jewelry as Native American, when it really isn’t.
They faced sentencing in federal court for violating the Indian Arts and Crafts Act.
The jewelry was sold in two Old Town stores owned by the same man.
He told buyers it was authentic Native American made jewelry when really it was made in the Philippines.
That owner, Neal Ali and his supplier Mohammed Manasra, who agents called a lower player Wednesday, were both arrested and charged with violating the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, which prohibits the misrepresentation of Indian arts and crafts.
Undercover agents raided Ali’s shops, Gallery 8 and Gallery Azul back in 2015, after an extensive undercover investigation.
In court Wednesday, they presented undercover video and audio where Ali said everything in his store was Navajo, which investigators say is an outright lie.
In another clip from an interview with agents, Ali can be heard saying he sells both imported and locally made jewelry.
Both Ali and Manasra plead guilty in the case and as part of the deal Ali faces up to a year and a half in prison, along with significant fines. Manasra faces up to a year. Without a deal, they could have faced up to 5 years in prison.
The sentencing hearing is still going on, there are several Native American jewelers who are expected to speak about the impact of fake jewelry on their livelihoods.
There has been a big crackdown in recent years of the sale of Native American jewelry, art and pottery that is not authentic.
Not only does it hurt the artists who make the real thing, it also affects tourism. People want to know if they’re buying what’s labeled as Native American art and jewelry, it really is.