In early November of 2015, the Native art community cheered as fraudulent Native jewelry sellers were busted by a Federal investigation. Unsealed warrants are showing us just how deep this rabbit hole goes. For many years, a vast network of unscrupulous businessmen has been taking advantage of artists and buyers alike. And sadly, this is only one of many such networks operating in the American Southwest.
The goal of this operation is simple: sell Native-looking jewelry that was made overseas as the real deal, at amazing markups. As the flow-chart shows, this network used a jewelry reproduction factory in the Philippines called “Fashion Accessories 4 U.” Huge batches of rings, bracelets, and other jewelry were produced and shipped to the distribution center located in Albuquerque, NM. The distribution warehouse, Sterling Islands, then provided the fake Native jewelry to connected stores throughout the Southwest. In Santa Fe: Momeni’s Gallery, Gold House, and Silver Coyote. Most notably, Gallery 8 and Galleria Azul in Albuquerque’s Old Town were major importers. Ever heard about Al Zuni, in Gallup? Yes, them too!
The final destinations for the fakes are ultimately responsible for removing the “Made in Philippines” tags. Employees were directed by management to lie to customers. They would even provide fake Navajo names when asked about the artists. The unsealed warrant tells this story over and over. Thankfully, the store owner was lying to an undercover agent this time!
To be clear: fraudulently selling jewelry as Native-made is a Federal crime, under the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990. This is why a number of these store owners are facing charges and potential jail time. This behavior is absolutely terrible and is a detriment to the Native art community. We here at Turquoise Skies condemn this behavior, and will continue to work towards unmasking these frauds.
For more information or if you would like to ready the full Case see the KOB website link here