By Brecken Branstrator
Phoenix—Seven people have been indicted for allegedly importing jewelry from the Philippines and selling it as authentic Native American-made pieces.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, a federal grand jury returned a 38-count indictment on Feb. 26 against suspects based in both the Philippines and United States.

The indictment accuses them of operating a fraudulent scheme to import Native American-style jewelry into the U.S. from the Philippines and sell it to retail stores and individuals across the Southwestern U.S. as authentic jewelry made by Native Americans.

The fraud and money laundering scheme started in January 2016, the Justice Department said, and violated federal laws including the Indian Arts and Crafts Act. The IACA prohibits the display or sale of any goods that falsely suggest they are Native American-produced, a Native American product or the product of a particular Native American and/or Native American tribe.

Richard Dennis Nisbet, 70, and his daughter, Laura Marye Lott, 31, both of Peoria, Arizona, are named in the indictment as the pair who were overseeing the scheme.

The defendants allegedly took several measures to ensure the jewelry resembled authentic Native American-made jewelry, including copying designs from genuine Native American artists, using traditional Native American motifs and symbols, and stamping the jewelry with the initials of Native American artists.

Court documents state the jewelry was imported into the U.S. through FedEx, or smuggled into the country by hand or through the Philippines Postal System to locations in Arizona, with Lott delivering the pieces to retail stores in Arizona, Texas and other states and collecting payment.

The indictment also names Christian Coxon, 45, owner and operator of the Turquoise River Trading Company jewelry store in San Antonio, Texas, which claims to specialize in Native American-made jewelry; and Waleed Sarrar, 43, of Chandler, Arizona, owner and operator of Scottsdale Jewels in Arizona, which also advertises “authentic Indian-made jewelry” for sale.

According to court documents, Coxon and Sarrar conspired with Nisbet and Lott to pass off the imitation jewelry as authentic Native American-made jewelry.

Court documents also allege that none of the jewelry items were indelibly marked with the country of origin, as U.S. customs law requires.

None of the calls placed to the U.S.-based defendants by National Jeweler on Monday were answered or returned.

The indictment also names three international defendants who have been charged in the case: Mency Remedio, a factory manager in the Philippines; and Orlando Abellanosa and Ariel Adlawan Canedo, both of whom allegedly worked as jewelry smiths for the operation.

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