If you think it's harmless to misrepresent the items you sell, take heed. The US Department of Justice announced today that three people pleaded guilty to "Conspiring to Fraudulently Sell Imported Jewelry From the Philippines As Native American-Made."
The gist of the government's case was described in this excerpt from the DOJ press release:
"According to information that the defendants admitted to as part of their pleas, from January 2016 through February 2019, they conspired with each other, and others, to design jewelry in the Native-American Indian-style and manufacture the jewelry in the Philippines with Filipino labor.
"The defendants also conspired to import the jewelry from the Philippines to Arizona without indelible markings as required by law, and display, advertise, and sell the jewelry to customers based on false representations that the jewelry items were made by Indians in the United States."
The defendants face a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and fines up to $250,000; their sentencing dates have not yet been set.
Amazingly, the March indictment alleged that in 2018, one of the defendants sent several co-defendants emails with links to a National Geographic article
titled, "Biggest Fake Native American Art Conspiracy Revealed" (March 15, 2018), with one email subject line allegedly reading, "Thus is why business is so bad." The National Geographic article reported on an ongoing federal investigation into "Native American art fraud."
"The Indian Arts and Crafts Act (IACA) prohibits the offer or display for sale, or the sale of any good in a manner that falsely suggests that it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian and Indian tribe. The law is designed to prevent products from being marketed as "Indian made," when the products are not, in fact, made by Indians. It covers all Indian and Indian-style traditional and contemporary arts and crafts produced after 1935, and broadly applies to the marketing of arts and crafts by any person in the United States. The IACA provides critical economic benefits for Native American cultural development by recognizing that forgery and fraudulent arts and crafts diminish the livelihood of Native American artists and craftspeople by lowering both market prices and standards."
The March 7th indictment
, which spelled out the government's allegations, is available on the DOJ website.