Washington Family Pleads Guilty to Indian and Arts and Crafts Act Violations
JUNEAU – A Washington family has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Indian Arts and Crafts Act for crimes committed when they owned and operated several businesses in Ketchikan, Alaska, involving the sale of Philippine produced stone carvings and wood totem poles as authentic Alaska Native produced artwork.
According to court documents, between April 2016 through December 8, 2021, Cristobal “Cris” Magno Rodrigo, 59, Glenda Tiglao Rodrigo, 46, and Christian Ryan Tiglao Rodrigo, 24, operated Alaska Stone Arts, LLC, Rail Creek, LLC, and Rodrigo Creative Crafts. During the course of the conspiracy the Rodrigos operated Alaska Stone Arts, LCC, which primarily sold stone carvings, and Rail Creek, LLC, that primarily sold wood totem poles in Ketchikan, Alaska. Those carvings were sourced from Glenda Rodrigo’s company, Rodrigo Creative Crafts, located in the Philippines. This Philippine business was created for the sole purpose of producing carvings featuring Alaskan Native designs and motifs through the use of Philippine labor. The carvings were shipped to the United States and subsequently to the Rodrigo’s stores in Ketchikan, and were then sold as authentic Alaskan Native art to unsuspecting customers in Alaska and elsewhere.
As part of the conspiracy, the Rodrigos also hired Alaskan Natives at Alaska Stone Arts, LLC and Rail Creek, LCC to represent and sell Philippine produced artwork as their own authentic Alaskan Native artwork in order to deceive customers into believing they were purchasing authentic Alaskan Native produced carvings. The investigation is still ongoing.
The defendants were arraigned and pled guilty on April 28, 2023, before Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Matthew S. Scoble. If convicted, the Rodrigos face a maximum of 10 years in prison. A sentencing hearing has been set on August 17, 2023, before Senior District Court Judge Timothy M. Burgess in federal district court. The judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
“This type of fraud directly affects Alaska Native artisans and their ability to make a living and is an affront to Alaska Native artists that have produced these beautiful works throughout the history of their culture” said U.S. Attorney S. Lane Tucker. “The United States Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners will continue to work to protect this cultural heritage, protect unwitting consumers, and prosecute and hold accountable those who perpetrate this type of fraud.”
“Protecting Alaska Native and American Indian culture and traditions is a critical part of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act,” said Edward Grace, Assistant Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a dedicated team of special agents that work on Indian Art and Crafts Act violations on behalf of the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Indian Arts and Crafts Board. Their investigative efforts protect consumers from those who choose to misrepresent Indian arts and crafts products. This exploitation of Alaska Natives for personal and financial gain is unacceptable. We thank our partners at the U.S. Department of Justice and the Indian Arts and Crafts Board for their assistance with this investigation.”
“Alaska has a very rich cultural heritage in which Alaska Native arts and crafts play a central role, including the passing down of cultural traditions from generation to generation. Accordingly, the Indian Arts and Crafts Board (IACB) is very pleased that these defendants have been brought to justice for their roles in producing as well as selling counterfeit Tlingit totem poles and stone carvings,” said U.S. Department of the Interior IACB Director Meridith Stanton. The IACB is responsible by statute for administering the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, an anti-counterfeiting statute enacted to rid the Alaska Native and American Indian arts and crafts market of fakes like those being misrepresented by defendants Cristobal M. Rodrigo, Glenda T. Rodrigo, and Christian Ryan T. Rodrigo. “Cases like these, particularly in popular Alaska tourist destinations which attract consumers from all over the world, are critical to preserving the integrity and viability of authentic Alaska Native art and craftwork, culture, and economies,” Director Stanton added. “The IACB applauds the diligent work of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Alaska and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Indian Arts and Crafts Act Enforcement Division in investigating and prosecuting these important cases.”
The Department of Interior – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Office of Law Enforcement lead the investigation with the assistance of the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Schmidt is prosecuting the case.
If you were a customer of Alaska Stone Arts, LLC or Rail Creek, LLC and purchased a stone carving or wood totem pole believing that it was an authentic Alaskan Native artwork, please contact U.S. Fish and Wildlife Special Agent Sherrell at 907-586-7545.
If you suspect potential Indian Arts and Crafts Act violations being committed, a complaint may be submitted through the Indian Arts and Crafts Board’s online complaint form, www.doi.gov/iacb/should-i-report-potential-violation, email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or toll free number, 888-278-3253.