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3 Plead Guilty in Native American Jewelry Scam
They admitted to their roles in a conspiracy in which jewelry manufactured in the Philippines was sold as Native American-made.
Phoenix—Three of the seven people indicted last February for passing off jewelry made overseas as Native American works have pleaded guilty in the case, the U.S. Justice Department announced.
Laura Marye Wesley, aka Laura Lott, 32; 46-year-old Christian Coxon; and 44-year-old Waleed, aka Willie, Sarrar entered their pleas Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge John Z. Boyle in Phoenix.
According to the indictment, Wesley and her father, 70-year-old Richard Dennis Nisbet, were the ringleaders of a seven-person operation that conspired to have the jewelry made in the Philippines and imported into the United States.
It was delivered to jewelry stores throughout the country and sold as Native American-made jewelry, a violation of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act.
A federal law, the IACA prohibits the display and/or sale of any goods—jewelry, rugs, baskets, leather goods, etc.—in a manner that suggests they are Native American-produced, a Native American product, or the product of a specific individual or tribe if they were not made by Native Americans.
In her plea, Wesley admitted to working with the Filipino factory workers who were making the knockoffs and wiring money to the Philippines to pay them and cover costs; smuggling jewelry into the U.S. through the mail to avoid inspection by federal authorities; and removing stickers that read “Made in the Philippines” from bags of imported jewelry.
She also admitted to delivering the pieces to jewelry stores in states including Arizona, Colorado, California, Texas, Minnesota and Utah.
Wesley owned and operated LMN Jewelers, and co-owned and co-operated Last Chance Jewelers, both of which specialize in the sale of Native American-style jewelry.
She pleaded guilty to: one count of conspiracy to commit misrepresentation of Indian-produced goods, wire fraud, mail fraud, entry of goods by means of false statements, and smuggling goods.
Coxon pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to mispresent Native American-produced goods and wire fraud for ordering and misrepresenting the jewelry at his store, Turquoise River Trading Company in San Antonio, the Justice Department said.
Sarrar pleaded guilty to the same for his store, Scottsdale Jewels in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Wesley and Sarrar are scheduled to be sentenced on March 30. Coxon’s sentencing is set for March 23.
The Justice Department said they face a maximum of five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.
The fourth defendant, Nisbet, died on Dec. 24 in Arizona, according to a filing made by his attorney on Jan. 3.
Their cases remain open, court records show.
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