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7 Accused of Fraudulent Jewelry Sales

A federal grand jury returned a 38-count indictment.

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PHOENIX – Seven people have been accused in connection with an alleged scheme to import Native American-style jewelry and sell it as authentic.

On Feb. 26, a federal grand jury returned a 38-count indictment against individuals based in the U.S. and the Philippines, according to a press release from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They allegedly sold the fraudulent merchandise to retail stores and individuals across the southwestern U.S.

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According to the indictment, the defendants and their conspirators used various jewelry businesses  including Last Chance Jewelers and LMN Jewelers — to design and manufacture jewelry in the Native-American style at factories in the Philippines.

The conspirators allegedly took several measures to ensure that the jewelry resembled authentic Native American-made jewelry, including copying jewelry designs from genuine Native American artists, using traditional Native American motifs and symbols in the jewelry, and stamping the jewelry with the initials of alleged Native American artists. According to the indictment, the jewelry was then imported into the U.S. by FedEx, or smuggled into the U.S. by hand or through the Philippines Postal System, to Arizona.

From there, the jewelry was allegedly advertised and sold to the general public as authentic jewelry made by Native Americans, at jewelry and crafts stores that purported to specialize in Native American pieces. The indictment alleges that none of these jewelry items were indelibly marked with the country of origin as required by customs law.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations “is committed to targeting those who are attempting to engage in selling counterfeit goods for pure profit,”  said Scott Brown, HSI special agent in charge for the Phoenix office.

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“Knowingly and willingly targeting unsuspected buyers is not only shameful but illegal,” he said. “This illicit activity has severe consequences, which include robbing the tribal communities of their economies by passing the arts, crafts, and jewelry as authentic Indian artifacts.”

The conspirators allegedly perpetrated this international fraud and money laundering scheme for several years in violation of federal laws, including the Indian Arts and Crafts Act.

The indictment alleges that Richard Dennis Nisbet, 70, and his daughter Laura Marye Lott, 31, both of Peoria, AZ, conspired with others to design and manufacture the Native American-style jewelry in the Philippines and import the jewelry to the U.S. Lott then allegedly delivered the jewelry to retail stores in Arizona, Texas and other states and collected payments.

Christian Coxon, 45, of Selma, TX, was the owner and operator of Turquoise River Trading Co., a jewelry store in San Antonio, TX, that claimed to specialize in Indian-made jewelry. Waleed Sarrar, 43, of Chandler, AZ, owned and operated Scottsdale Jewels LLC, a jewelry store in Scottsdale, AZ, that advertised as selling authentic Indian-made jewelry.

According to the indictment, Coxon and Sarrar conspired with Nisbet, Lott and others to pass off imitation jewelry manufactured abroad to the public as authentic Native American-made jewelry.

Additionally, Mency Remedio, a factory manager in the Philippines, and Orlando Abellanosa and Ariel Adlawan Canedo, both of whom worked as jewelry smiths in the Philippines for the operation, were also charged with participating in the schemes.

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