Houston Area Man Sentenced for Selling, Mailing Counterfeit Native American Goods
SAN ANTONIO – A Kingwood man was sentenced in federal court in San Antonio Tuesday to five years of probation for mail fraud and misrepresentation of Indian Goods under the Indian Arts and Crafts Act.
According to court documents, Kevin Charles Kowalis, 60, fraudulently marketed and sold jewelry online that he described as “Native American Indian Handmade,” “genuine Indian handcrafted,” “Zuni,” and “Navajo.” He had received the counterfeit jewelry from a manufacturer in the Philippines unaffiliated with any federally recognized Native American tribe. Kowalis fulfilled an order of the jewelry to a San Antonio-based customer, mailing several packages through the U.S. Postal Service. In addition to the five-year probation sentence, Kowalis was ordered to forfeit his inventory and pay restitution to a victimized artist.
“Fraud can come in many forms but always carries the intent to deceive a victim,” said U.S. Attorney Jaime Esparza of the Western District of Texas. “Offenders like this defendant victimize both our cherished Native American community and consumers who believe they’re collecting authentic pieces of Native American culture. We will not stand idle while someone takes advantage of our citizens and our federal resources.”
“This sentencing is important in the fight to end this type of fraud. Our dedicated team of special agents works on behalf of the Department of the Interior and the Indian Arts and Crafts Board to protect American Indian and Alaska Native artists and the consumers who purchase authentic Native American art and craftwork,” said Assistant Director Edward J. Grace of the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Office of Law Enforcement. "We thank our partners at the U.S. Department of Justice for their assistance with this investigation."
“For those selling counterfeit Indian art and craftwork it is important to know that wherever you are we will diligently work to find and prosecute you under the Indian Arts and Crafts Act,” said Director Meridith Stanton of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Indian Arts and Crafts Board. “This case provides a vivid demonstration of that commitment.”
The USFWS Office of Law Enforcement investigated the case with the assistance of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Indian Arts and Crafts Board.
Assistant U.S. Attorney William Calve prosecuted the case.