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

  • Gunman that targeted Washington pizza shop led turbulent life

    World News CTV News
    SALISBURY, N.C. - The man accused of firing an assault rifle inside a Washington restaurant appears to have lived an aimless life that became turbulent in the weeks before he was drawn to the nation's capital by a fake news story. Source
  • Pakistan opens probe into plane crash that killed 47

    World News CTV News
    GUG, Pakistan - Pakistani authorities have opened a probe into the deadly plane crash in the country's northwest the previous day that killed all 47 passengers and crew, a spokesman said Thursday. Pervez George of the Civil Aviation Authority told The Associated Press that experts are working in the hillside village of Gug in the district of Abbottabad, where the small twin-propeller aircraft crashed and burst into flames after developing a fault in one of its two engines. Source
  • Search for survivors continues in Indonesia as death toll climbs to 102

    World News CBC News
    Rescue workers, soldiers and police combed through the rubble of a devastated town in Indonesia's Aceh province Thursday, resuming a search for earthquake survivors that was halted at night by rain and blackouts. More than 100 people died in the shallow and powerful quake that struck northeast Sumatra before dawn on Wednesday. Source
  • Motion to impeach South Korea's president introduced

    World News CBC News
    South Korea's parliament introduced a bill on Thursday to impeach President Park Geun-hye, setting in motion a vote to oust the embattled leader engulfed in an influence-peddling scandal. Parliament is expected to vote on impeaching Park on Friday and opposition parties have said they believe they will get the two-thirds majority needed to pass the bill. Source
  • Trump takes to Twitter to criticize union leader critical of Indiana deal

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON - President-elect Donald Trump is slamming a union leader who criticized his deal to discourage air conditioner manufacturer Carrier Corp. from closing an Indiana factory and moving its jobs to Mexico. Trump tweeted Wednesday evening: "Chuck Jones, who is President of United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers. Source
  • Rebel loss in Aleppo could have domino effect

    World News CTV News
    ALEPPO, Syria -- Aleppo shakes with explosions and gunfire day and night in both the government-- and rebel-held sides of the divided Syrian city. But for supporters of President Bashar Assad, there is a growing sense of imminent victory. Source
  • South Korean parliament sets up presidential impeachment vote

    World News CTV News
    SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of - South Korea's opposition-controlled parliament has formally introduced an impeachment motion on President Park Geun-hye. This sets the stage for a likely impeachment vote Friday. A parliamentary official reported the motion to a plenary session Thursday. Source
  • Campus cop shot teen holding knife at Nevada high school

    World News CTV News
    RENO, Nev. -- A campus police officer shot a knife-wielding student at a Nevada high school on Wednesday during a confrontation witnessed by dozens of other students, Reno police said. The 14-year-old boy was reported in critical condition Wednesday night at a Reno hospital, Police Chief Jason Soto said. Source
  • Italian PM Renzi quits as search begins for new leader

    World News CTV News
    ROME -- Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi resigned Wednesday evening, his self-inflicted penalty for staking his job on constitutional changes voters resoundingly rejected earlier in the week. He will stay in a caretaker's role at the request of Italy's president until a new government can be formed. Source
  • Winnipeg man pleads guilty to bigamy

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    A former Winnipeg man married to two women for more than a year has learned what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas. The 43-year-old man pleaded guilty in Winnipeg court Wednesday to one count of bigamy. Source