Alaska shop owners charged with selling fake native artwork

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Four shops catering to Alaska cruise ship visitors sold whale and walrus bone carvings for $1,000 or more each that they falsely claimed were made by Alaska Native artists, according to federal prosecutors.

See Full Article

The shop owners in Juneau, Ketchikan and Skagway have been charged with violating the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act, prosecutors announced late Thursday. A Skagway employee also was charged.

Congress adopted the measure as a truth-in-marketing law, said Jack Schmidt, assistant U.S. attorney in Juneau. The number of cases demonstrates the problem is common.

"To make the sale, people are willing to misrepresent," he said. "We're hoping that with this prosecution of cases, that we will be able to put it out there that this is not an acceptable practice."

Art falsely portrayed as created by indigenous people is a statewide issue that undercuts sales for Alaska Natives artists. Many live in rural villages with depressed economies, said Rosita Worl, president of the Sealaska Heritage Institute and an advocate for issues affecting Alaska Natives.

"Arts and craft sales are a major effort for them to stay in the villages," she said Friday. Fraudulent sales also hurt consumers, she said.

"We don't do a service to customers if we're selling them fake art, and probably not good art," Worl said.

Alaska has multiple indigenous peoples, including Tlingit and Haida in southeast Alaska, Athabaskans in interior Alaska, and Aleuts, Yupik and Inuit of the western and northern coasts.

The investigation focused on figurines carved from whale or walrus bones.

Tourists' complaints led to an investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In one Juneau case, an undercover agent in August entered the Diamond Island shop, contacted owner Vinod "Vinny" Sippy and asked about two bone carvings.

Sippy, the agent reported, said they were carved by an "Inuit Indian" and "Native Inuits."

The agent bought both pieces for a total of $1,985. Sippy later acknowledged he knew the artists were not Alaska Natives, according to the misdemeanour complaint.

Sippy's attorney, Brent Cole, said his client is taking the charges seriously. He said the government has provided a substantial amount of information on the case after a year or more of investigation, and it was impossible to comment before sifting through the information.

Norma Carandang, who owns Northstar Gift Shop in Juneau, was charged with two counts. An undercover agent reporting buying a non-Native carving for $976 that Carandang claimed was made by a member of the Tlingit-Haida tribe.

Carandang said Friday she was shocked by the charge but was advised not to comment.

Gabriel Karim, owner of Alaska Heritage in Ketchikan, was charged with one count. He said by phone from Puerto Rico he had not heard of the charge. The origin of artwork sold in his Ketchikan store, he said, is identified to customers. Employees are trained to distinguish between pieces carved in Alaska versus pieces carved by Alaska Natives.

"There might be some sort of misunderstanding," Karim said.

In Skagway, Lynch and Kennedy Dry Goods Inc. owner Rosemary Libert and seasonal employee Judy Gengler were charged with one count each. Messages left with Libert were not immediately returned Friday.

The maximum penalty for a conviction is a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Forgotten hero in marine disaster honoured by Red Cross in N.L.

    Canada News CTV News
    ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- Forty-six years ago, Leo Bullen gave up his life when he offered his life-jacket to a small child as a fire raged around them on the schooner Delroy, sinking the ship and claiming the lives of nine people. Source
  • U.S. grand jury indicts woman on charges of being Russian agent

    World News CBC News
    A U.S. grand jury on Tuesday indicted a Russian woman on charges of acting as an agent of the Russian government, the U.S. Justice Department said. Maria Butina, who studied at American University in Washington and is a founder of the pro-gun Russian advocacy group Right to Bear Arms, was arrested on Sunday and is scheduled to appear on Wednesday in federal court in Washington, the department said. Source
  • Cartoonists capture surreal side of Trump-Putin meeting

    World News CTV News
    “Bizarre.” “Shameful.” “Flat-out wrong.” That’s how three top Republicans described U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments during Monday’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Speaking in Helsinki, Trump cast doubt on U.S. intelligence findings that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. Source
  • 'Luckiest son of a gun around' heads home after grizzly attack

    Canada News CBC News
    Jordan Carbery is celebrating, despite suffering a ripped scalp and a chewed abdomen. He knows it could have been worse. The park ranger from Bella Coola survived an angry grizzly bear attack on July 3 and after 14 days at Vancouver General Hospital he's heading home to Bella Coola, B.C. Source
  • 'Must be the intelligence agencies': Lights go out during Trump statement

    World News CTV News
    The lights go out as U.S. President Donald Trump, center, accompanied by House Ways and Means Committee chairman Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, left, and Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., right, speaks in the Cabinet room of the White House, Tuesday, July 17, 2018, in Washington. Source
  • Remains of Sweetgrass Kennedy, 4, found on banks of North Saskatchewan River

    Canada News CBC News
    RCMP say they have found the remains of a four-year-old boy who disappeared from Prince Albert in May. Sweetgrass Kennedy was last seen May 10, playing with a group of children on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River, according to Prince Albert police. Source
  • Mueller seeks immunity for 5 witnesses in Manafort case

    World News CBC News
    Special counsel Robert Mueller is seeking immunity for five potential witnesses in the upcoming trial of U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. Mueller's office told a federal judge in Virginia on Tuesday that they were seeking to compel the witnesses to testify under condition of immunity. Source
  • Ford says consultation on sex-ed curriculum will be largest in Ontario history

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Doug Ford says his government's consultations on a new sex-ed curriculum will be the largest in the history of Ontario education. The recently elected premier is scrapping the modernized version of the curriculum brought in by his Liberal predecessors and reverting to one introduced in 1998 while consultations are carried out for a new document. Source
  • People in all 124 Ontario ridings will be consulted on sex ed, says Doug Ford

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- People across Ontario will be consulted before a new sex-education curriculum is drafted, Premier Doug Ford said Tuesday in an attempt to quell concerns over his government's controversial decision to scrap the updated lesson plan. Source
  • Toronto police suspend officer after alleged leak during 'potential risk' probe

    Canada News CTV News
    Toronto police say they have suspended an officer for allegedly leaking information regarding a "potential risk" to public safety that was investigated last week. The force has said uncorroborated information about a potential risk in the Greater Toronto Area led them to increase their presence in the downtown core on Thursday, but also said the public didn't need to avoid the area. Source