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More indictments in fake Native jewelry case

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An ongoing federal investigation into fake Native American jewelry resulted in a second set of indictments earlier this month.

The investigation began in 2012 and has spanned several states, including New Mexico, where stores were selling jewelry actually made in the Philippines as “Navajo” or Indian, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque.

“The indictments filed as a result of this continuing investigation are not only about enforcing the law, but also about protecting and preserving the cultural heritage of Native Americans,” Damon Martinez, the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico, said in a statement.

Imad Aysheh, Iyad Aysheh, Nedal Aysheh, Raed Aysheh and Nael Ali were all indicted earlier this month on conspiracy charges and for violating the Indian Arts and Craft Act. The group operates at least eight stores across the country, according to the indictment.

Ali, Christina Bowen and Mohammed Abed Manasra were indicted on similar charges in 2015 as part of the same federal investigation.

A federal court website indicates that some of the men from the recent case have already been appointed attorneys and pleaded not guilty to the charges, while others were still awaiting arraignment.

Attorney Jerry Daniel Herrera, who is representing Ali, said he wanted to review the case before commenting on it. Attorneys for the other defendants couldn’t be reached for comment on Wednesday.

The indictment accuses Imad Aysheh of operating a business in the Philippines where the fake jewelry was made. Nedal Aysheh sent the business source materials to mimic Native American style.

The jewelry was then shipped to the U.S. and sold at various businesses around the country as Native American, according to the indictment. In one case, a federal agent spent nearly $1,900 to buy a bear pendant and bracelet, according to the court documents.

The stores involved in the scheme include Gallery 8 and Galeria Azul in Albuquerque’s Old Town, Momeni’s Gallery in Santa Fe and the Gallup Indian Plaza, according to the indictment and search warrant affidavits.

During the investigation, agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which led the investigation, visited stores in New Mexico, California and Alaska, and purchased the knockoff art, according to the indictment.