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Jeweler Sentenced to Prison for Fraudulent Sales

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He pleaded guilty to 2 felony charges.

A New Mexico jeweler has been sentenced to six months in prison for selling counterfeit Native American jewelry as “Indian-Made.”

Nael Ali, 54, of Albuquerque previously pleaded guilty to two felony charges of violating the Indian Arts and Craft Act. Ali owned two jewelry stores, Gallery 8 and Galleria Azul, in Albuquerque’s Old Town specializing in Native American jewelry.

U.S. District Judge Judith C. Herrera of the District of New Mexico also ordered Ali to serve a year of supervised release and pay $9,000 in restitution.

The 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 or Indian tribe.

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“The tremendous contributions made by Native Americans to the cultural and artistic heritage of our nation must be preserved and protected,” said New Mexico U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson.  “This case and the continuing investigation demonstrates the Justice Department’s commitment to safeguard the rich culture and heritage of New Mexico’s Pueblos and Tribes while promoting confidence in New Mexico’s rich art market.”

The charges against Ali and co-defendant Mohammad Manasra, 58, also of Albuquerque, were the result of an ongoing federal investigation led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and FBI into an international scheme to violate the IACA. During a law enforcement operation in October 2015, federal agents executed 15 search warrants in New Mexico and one in California. Eight of the search warrants were executed in Albuquerque including four at retail and wholesale jewelry businesses. In addition, search warrants were executed at three jewelry stores in Gallup, three jewelry stores in Santa Fe, and a jewelry production shop in Zuni. Federal agents also executed a search warrant at a jewelry store in Calistoga, CA. Three federal seizure warrants also were executed on accounts in a Charlotte, NC, bank and a San Francisco bank. In addition, the Philippines National Bureau of Investigations conducted a series of investigative interviews at two factories in Cebu City, Philippines.

Manasra, a wholesaler, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of violating IACA on Oct. 5, 2017, and admitted fraudulently selling a Kokopelli pendant and earing set, two rings, a bracelet and an orange cluster pendant to an undercover agent. He was sentenced on May 10, 2018, to two days of imprisonment and a year of supervised release. Manasra also was ordered to forfeit 5,268 pieces of Native-American style jewelry and to pay a $500 money judgment.

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