He violated the Indian Arts and Crafts Act.
ALBUQUERQUE – A New Mexico man has admitted to selling counterfeit Native American-style jewelry in two retail jewelry stores located in Albuquerque’s Old Town.
Nael Ali, 53, of Albuquerque, pleaded guilty to two felony charges under a plea agreement that recommends up to 18 months of imprisonment, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release. The prison sentence would be followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court.
The Indian Arts and Crafts Act "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," according to the release.
"Today’s guilty plea is a victory for Native Americans and the protection of their cultural heritage," said Acting U.S. Attorney James D. Tierney. "Southwest Native American jewelry is world-renowned for its craftsmanship and beauty. Those who pay top dollar to own these treasures should be able to trust their authenticity and know their money supports real Native Americans and their tribes."
Ali and co-defendant Mohammad Manasra, 57, also of Albuquerque, were charged in October 2015 in a four-count indictment with conspiracy to violate the IACA and three substantive violations of the act, according to the release. A 10-count superseding indictment was filed in March 2016 charging Ali and Manasra with conspiracy and substantive violations of the IACA, mail fraud and four counts of wire fraud.
Authorities said Ali owned two jewelry stores – Gallery 8 and Galleria Azul – specializing in Native American jewelry, and Manasra was a wholesaler of Native American jewelry. They alleged that Ali and Manasra conspired to import and fraudulently sell Filipino-made jewelry as Native American-made.
In his plea agreement, Ali admitted operating Gallery 8, where he sold Native American-style jewelry made by laborers in the Philippines. Ali admitted mixing Filipino-made jewelry with Native American-made jewelry without labeling the Filipino-made jewelry with the country of origin, according to the release.
Authorities said he also admitted:
- Intentionally stocking the Filipino-made jewelry in a manner that falsely suggested that it was Native-American made.
- Providing lists for the employees to reference symbols and initials to falsely suggest the jewelry was Native American-made.
- Training employees to tell customers the jewelry was Native American-made.
Ali also admitted that on Feb. 26, 2014, an employee acting at Ali’s direction sold 10 rings that he represented as Navajo-made but which were actually Filipino-made to an undercover law enforcement agent for $1,115.
On Oct. 5, 2016, Manasra entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor information charging him with violating IACA. In entering the guilty plea, Manasra admitted that on Oct. 19, 2014, he fraudulently sold a Kokopelli pendant and earing set, two rings, a bracelet and an orange cluster pendant to an undercover law enforcement agent. Manasra further admitted that he knew the jewelry was made in the Philippines even though he intentionally told the undercover agent that the Kokopelli set was “Zuni” and the rings, bracelet and cluster set were “Navajo.” At sentencing, Manasra faces a maximum penalty of one year in prison or a maximum of five years of probation.
Sentencing hearings for Ali and Manasra have yet to be scheduled.
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