CHICAGO – Four people, one of them doing business in Cebu, Philippines to obtain cheap labor, have been indicted by a federal grand jury for violation of the Native American Indian Arts and Crafts Act (IACA) by making counterfeit Indian-made jewelry and selling the jewelry in the United States as made by Indian craftsmen.
The manufacturer sourced the materials in Guangdong, China and transported the finished products to the U.S. after these were made in Cebu.
The indictment cited more than 50 financial transactions allegedly conducted by the defendants between April 2014 and October 2015. It involved more than $300,000 with amounts ranging from $1,100 to $60,000.
It was the second indictment filed as a result of a continuing federal investigation that began in January 2015. The investigation focused on an international scheme to violate IACA and included the execution of eight search and seizure warrants and investigative activity in New Mexico, California, Alaska, Kentucky, Nevada and the Philippines.
The three-count indictment charged the following four defendants with conspiring to violate IACA and laws on federal fraudulent importation, money laundering, wire fraud and mail fraud:
Imad Aysheh, 41, former resident of Gallup, New Mexico, who is identified as owner and operator of Imad’s Jewelry, a jewelry manufacturing business in the Philippines;
Iyad Aysheh, 45, of Lodi, California, who is identified as the chief executive officer and agent for IJ Wholesale Inc., a California corporation that imports jewelry to the United States;
Nedal Aysheh, 37, former resident of Gallup, New Mexico; and
Raed Aysheh, 39, of American Canyon, California, who is identified as owner and operator of Golden Bear & Legacy, LLC, a retail store in Calistoga, California, that specializes in Native American-style jewelry.
A fifth defendant was indicted in 2015.
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 such 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.
IACA provides critical economic benefits for Native American cultural development by recognizing that forgery and fraudulent Indian arts and crafts diminish the livelihood of Native American artists and craftspeople by lowering both market prices and standards.
The investigation that led to the indictment was led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with the assistance of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) and Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Cebu-made jewelry passed off as Indian-made; 4 men indicted
According to the indictment, from March 2014 through October 2015, the four defendants conspired to violate the IACA by displaying and offering for sale jewelry manufactured in the Philippines in a manner that suggested that it was Indian-produced and the product of American Indian tribes.
The indictment also alleges that these defendants conspired to defraud the United States and its people of money by using the U.S. mail and wire communications to promote the importation and sale of the Filipino-made jewelry as Indian-made and to launder the proceeds of the unlawful sales.
The indictment alleges that Imad Aysheh manufactured Indian-style jewelry using Filipino labor for import into the United States, and that Nedal Aysheh provided source material and trained the Filipino laborers who manufactured the jewelry. It further alleges that Iyad Aysheh imported the Filipino-made jewelry into the United States; and Iyad Aysheh and Raed Aysheh accepted shipments of the Filipino-made jewelry in the United States; and that Iyad Aysheh, Nedal Aysheh and Raed Aysheh distributed the Filipino-made jewelry through jewelry stores purportedly specializing in the sale of Indian-made jewelry.
Iyad Aysheh separately is charged with violating the IACA in Santa Fe County in the summer of 2015 by selling jewelry valued at more than $1,000 and misrepresented as Indian-made while knowing that the jewelry was not an Indian product.
A fifth defendant, Nael Ali, 53, of Albuquerque, who is identified as the owner and operator of Gallery 8 and Galleria Azul, two arts and crafts retail stores in Albuquerque’s Old Town, is also charged with violating the IACA in Bernalillo County in October 2015.
Ali is not charged in the conspiracy count.
If convicted, the defendants would face a statutory maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.