Score:   1
Docket Number:   D-AZ  2:19-cr-00200
Case Name:   USA v. Nisbet et al
  Press Releases:
Three members of an international conspiracy to import knock-off jewelry from the Philippines and misrepresent it as Native-American have pleaded guilty for their roles in the fraudulent scheme, announced Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Michael Bailey of the District of Arizona. 

On Jan. 6, all three defendants pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge John Z. Boyle of the District of Arizona.  Laura Marye Wesley, a.k.a. Laura Lott, 32, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit misrepresentation of Indian-produced goods, wire fraud, mail fraud, and entry of goods by means of false statements and smuggling goods, for her role in the manufacture, importation, and sale of knock-off jewelry as Native American-made.  Wesley is scheduled to be sentenced on March 30, 2020.   

Christian Coxon, 46, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to misrepresent Indian-produced goods and to commit wire fraud, for his role in ordering and misrepresenting imported, knock-off jewelry as Native American-made at his retail store Turquoise River Trading Company, located in San Antonio, Texas.  Coxon is scheduled to be sentenced on March 23, 2020.    

Waleed Sarrar, a.k.a. Willie Sarrar, 44, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to misrepresent Indian-produced goods and to commit wire fraud, for his role in ordering and misrepresenting imported, knock-off jewelry as Native American-made at his retail store Scottsdale Jewels, located in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Sarrar is scheduled to be sentenced on March 30, 2020. 

According to information that the defendants admitted to as part of their pleas, from January 2016 through February 2019, they conspired with each other, and others, to design jewelry in the Native-American Indian-style and manufacture the jewelry in the Philippines with Filipino labor.  The defendants also conspired to import the jewelry from the Philippines to Arizona without indelible markings as required by law, and display, advertise, and sell the jewelry to customers based on false representations that the jewelry items were made by Indians in the United States.  To perpetrate the fraud scheme, the defendants and their conspirators communicated by phone, text, and email, including across state and country borders; used private commercial shipping services such as FedEx to import jewelry from the Philippines to the United States; paid for the jewelry inventory through credit cards, including via web-based credit card processors, and by check; and charged the credit cards of customers who purchased the imported Indian-style jewelry. 

As part of her plea, Wesley agreed that she owned and operated LMN Jewelers, a jewelry business that specialized in the sale of Native-American-style jewelry, and co-owned and co-operated Last Chance Jewelers, a similar jewelry business.  She also admitted to removing “Made in the Philippines” stickers from bags of imported jewelry, smuggling jewelry into the U.S. from the Philippines through the U.S. Postal Service to avoid inspection by federal authorities at the port of entry, wiring money to the Philippines to cover the costs of the jewelry-making business there, working with Filipino factory workers who were manufacturing the knock-offs, and delivering the knock-off Native-American-style jewelry to retail jewelry stores in Arizona, Colorado, California, Texas, Minnesota, Utah, and elsewhere.     

The defendants face a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and fines up to $250,000.  Their sentencing dates have not yet been set.      

The Indian Arts and Crafts Act (IACA) prohibits the offer or display for sale, or the sale of any good in a manner that falsely suggests that it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian and Indian tribe.  The law is designed to prevent products from being marketed as “Indian made,” when the products are not, in fact, made by Indians.  It covers all Indian and Indian-style traditional and contemporary arts and crafts produced after 1935, and broadly applies to the marketing of arts and crafts by any person in the United States.  The IACA provides critical economic benefits for Native American cultural development by recognizing that forgery and fraudulent arts and crafts diminish the livelihood of Native American artists and craftspeople by lowering both market prices and standards.   

This case was investigated by the Office of Law Enforcement for the Southwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Phoenix Field Office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, with assistance from the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the U.S. Department of the Interior Office of Law Enforcement and Security, the U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations, and the Texas Game Wardens.  Trial Attorney Mona Sahaf of the Criminal Division, Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Peter Sexton and Mark Wenker are prosecuting the case.   

On Feb. 26, a federal grand jury in Phoenix, Arizona returned a 38-count indictment against U.S. and Philippines-based conspirators for operating a fraudulent scheme to import Native American-style jewelry and sell it to retail stores and individuals across the southwest United States as authentic jewelry made by Native Americans.  The conspirators allegedly perpetrated this international fraud and money laundering scheme for several years in violation of federal laws, including the Indian Arts and Crafts Act (IACA).

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth A. Strange of the District of Arizona, Assistant Director Edward Grace of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Office of Law Enforcement and Special Agent in Charge A. Scott Brown of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Phoenix Field Office made the announcement.  

According to the indictment, the defendants and their conspirators used various jewelry businesses—including Last Chance Jewelers and LMN Jewelers—to design and manufacture jewelry in the Native-American style at factories in the Philippines where Filipino jewelry-makers made all of the jewelry.  The conspirators allegedly took several measures to ensure that the jewelry resembled authentic Native American-made jewelry, including copying jewelry designs from genuine Native American artists, using traditional Native American motifs and symbols in the jewelry, and stamping the jewelry with the initials of alleged Native American artists.  According to the indictment, the jewelry was then imported into the United States by FedEx, or smuggled into the United States by hand or through the Philippines Postal System, to end destinations in Arizona.  From there, it was allegedly advertised and sold to the general public as authentic jewelry made by Native Americans, at jewelry and crafts stores that purported to specialize in Native American pieces.  The indictment alleges that none of these jewelry items were indelibly marked with the country of origin as required by customs law. 

The indictment alleges that Richard Dennis Nisbet, 70, and his daughter Laura Marye Lott, 31, both of Peoria, Arizona, conspired with others to design and manufacture the Native American-style jewelry in the Philippines and import the jewelry to the United States.  Lott then allegedly delivered the jewelry to retail stores in Arizona, Texas, and other states and collected payments.  Christian Coxon, 45, of Selma, Texas, was the owner and operator of Turquoise River Trading Company, a jewelry store in San Antonio, Texas that claimed to specialize in Indian-made jewelry.  Waleed Sarrar, 43, of Chandler, Arizona, owned and operated Scottsdale Jewels LLC, a jewelry store in Scottsdale, Arizona that advertised as selling authentic Indian-made jewelry.  According to the indictment, Coxon and Sarrar conspired with Nisbet, Lott, and others to pass off imitation jewelry manufactured abroad to the public as authentic Native American-made jewelry.  Additionally, Mency Remedio, a factory manager in the Philippines, and Orlando Abellanosa and Ariel Adlawan Canedo, both of whom worked as jewelry smiths in the Philippines for the operation, were also charged with participating in the multi-year fraud and money laundering schemes.    

The IACA prohibits the offer or display for sale, or the sale of any good in a manner that falsely suggests that it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian and Indian tribe.  The law is designed to prevent products from being marketed as “Indian made,” when the products are not, in fact, made by Indians.  It covers all Indian and Indian-style traditional and contemporary arts and crafts produced after 1935, and broadly applies to the marketing of arts and crafts by any person in the United States.  The IACA provides critical economic benefits for Native American cultural development by recognizing that forgery and fraudulent arts and crafts diminish the livelihood of Native American artists and craftspeople by lowering both market prices and standards.

An indictment is merely an allegation.  All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case was investigated by the FWS Office of Law Enforcement for the Southwest Region and HSI Phoenix, with assistance from the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the Bureau of Land Management Office of Law Enforcement and Security and the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, the U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations and the Texas Game Wardens.  Trial Attorney Mona Sahaf of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Peter Sexton and Mark Wenker of the District of Arizona are prosecuting the case.   

Docket (0 Docs):   https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1p0jVkeK4LufPjgweZzzA8PHX9CImtz6JTQCYSZwIGLY/edit#gid=0
  Last Updated: 2020-01-17 10:42:01 UTC
Description: The fiscal year of the data file obtained from the AOUSC
Format: YYYY

Description: The code of the federal judicial circuit where the case was located
Format: A2

Description: The code of the federal judicial district where the case was located
Format: A2

Description: The code of the district office where the case was located
Format: A2

Description: Docket number assigned by the district to the case
Format: A7

Description: A unique number assigned to each defendant in a case which cannot be modified by the court
Format: A3

Description: A unique number assigned to each defendant in a case which can be modified by the court
Format: A3

Description: A sequential number indicating whether a case is an original proceeding or a reopen
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Description: Case type associated with the current defendant record
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Description: A concatenation of district, office, docket number, case type, defendant number, and reopen sequence number
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Description: A concatenation of district, office, docket number, case type, and reopen sequence number
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Description: The status of the defendant as assigned by the AOUSC
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Description: A code indicating the fugitive status of a defendant
Format: A1

Description: The date upon which a defendant became a fugitive
Format: YYYYMMDD

Description: The date upon which a fugitive defendant was taken into custody
Format: YYYYMMDD

Description: The date when a case was first docketed in the district court
Format: YYYYMMDD

Description: The date upon which proceedings in a case commenced on charges pending in the district court where the defendant appeared, or the date of the defendant’s felony-waiver of indictment
Format: YYYYMMDD

Description: A code used to identify the nature of the proceeding
Format: N2

Description: The date when a defendant first appeared before a judicial officer in the district court where a charge was pending
Format: YYYYMMDD

Description: A code indicating the event by which a defendant appeared before a judicial officer in the district court where a charge was pending
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Description: A code indicating the type of legal counsel assigned to a defendant
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Description: The four digit D2 offense code associated with FTITLE1
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Description: A code indicating the severity associated with FTITLE1
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Description: The title and section of the U.S. Code applicable to the offense committed which carried the second highest severity
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Description: A code indicating the level of offense associated with FTITLE2
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Description: The four digit AO offense code associated with FTITLE2
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Description: The four digit D2 offense code associated with FTITLE2
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Description: A code indicating the severity associated with FTITLE2
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Description: The title and section of the U.S. Code applicable to the offense committed which carried the third highest severity
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Description: The four digit AO offense code associated with FTITLE3
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Description: The four digit D2 offense code associated with FTITLE3
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Description: A code indicating the severity associated with FTITLE3
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Description: The title and section of the U.S. Code applicable to the offense committed which carried the fourth highest severity
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Description: The four digit AO offense code associated with FTITLE4
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Description: The four digit D2 offense code associated with FTITLE4
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Description: A code indicating the severity associated with FTITLE4
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Description: The title and section of the U.S. Code applicable to the offense committed which carried the fifth highest severity
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Description: The four digit AO offense code associated with FTITLE5
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Description: The four digit D2 offense code associated with FTITLE5
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Description: A code indicating the severity associated with FTITLE5
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Description: The FIPS code used to indicate the county or parish where an offense was committed
Format: A5

Description: The date of the last action taken on the record
Format: YYYYMMDD

Description: The date upon which judicial proceedings before the court concluded
Format: YYYYMMDD

Description: The date upon which the final sentence is recorded on the docket
Format: YYYYMMDD

Description: The date upon which the case was closed
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Description: The total fine imposed at sentencing for all offenses of which the defendant was convicted and a fine was imposed
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Description: A count of defendants filed including inter-district transfers
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Description: A count of defendants filed excluding inter-district transfers
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Description: A count of original proceedings commenced
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Description: A count of defendants filed whose proceedings commenced by reopen, remand, appeal, or retrial
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Description: A count of defendants terminated excluding interdistrict transfers
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Description: A count of original proceedings terminated
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Description: A count of defendants pending as of the last day of the period including long term fugitives
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Description: A count of defendants pending as of the last day of the period excluding long term fugitives
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Description: A sequential number indicating the iteration of the defendant record
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Description: The date the record was loaded into the AOUSC’s NewSTATS database
Format: YYYYMMDD

Description: Statistical year ID label on data file obtained from the AOUSC which represents termination year
Format: YYYY

Data imported from FJC Integrated Database
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