“Money Mule” sentenced to one year in prison for call center scheme that defrauded victims of more than $700,000
Seattle – A 54-year-old Western Washington artist was sentenced today to 24 months of probation and 200 hours of community service for violations of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act by representing himself as a Native American artist, when he had no tribal enrollment or heritage, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman. Lewis Anthony Rath, of Maple Falls, pleaded guilty in March 2023. U.S. District Judge Tana Lin thanked the tribal representatives who participated in the sentencing hearing. She read aloud the letter submitted by the San Carlos Apache Tribe Chairman, Terry Rambler, describing the harm to his 17,000 tribal members caused by Rath’s misappropriation of his Tribe’s culture in selling his fake artwork. Judge Lin also heard from Yavapai-Apache jewelry artist Matagi Sorensen who spoke about the importance of art to the survival of his people both culturally and financially.
According to documents filed in the case, the investigation of Lewis Anthony Rath began in July 2018, when the Indian Arts and Crafts Board received a complaint that Rath was representing himself as a San Carlos Apache Indian artist, when in fact, he is not an enrolled tribal member. For more than a year, Rath sold carved wooden totem poles, transformation masks, and pendants to Seattle retail stores, claiming they were Native American art.
Agents executed a federal search warrant at Rath’s residence and recovered feathers from birds protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, according to results from the National Fish and Wildlife Forensic Lab.
In a statement to the court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tate London stated, “Rath’s victims are real: they are Indian artists, many who struggle to make a living, who lost out on sales to those who seek authentic Indian artwork; and they are also consumers who were defrauded into purchasing fake Indian art.”
“Lewis Anthony Rath’s false Tribal affiliation involving the San Carlos Apache Tribe cheated customers and impacted the economic and cultural livelihood of Native American artists," said Edward Grace, Assistant Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement. “Protecting American Indian and Alaska Native culture and traditions is a critical part of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act. Our dedicated team of special agents work on behalf of the U.S. 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. This sentencing is important in the ongoing effort to hold Indian Arts and Crafts Act violators accountable. We want to thank our partners at the U.S. Department of Justice and the Indian Arts and Crafts Board for their assistance with this investigation.”
“Counterfeit Indian art, like Lewis Anthony Rath’s carvings and jewelry that he misrepresented and sold as San Carlos Apache-made, tears at the very fabric of Indian culture, livelihoods, and communities,” stated U.S. Department of the Interior Indian Arts and Crafts Board (IACB) Director Meridith Stanton. “The IACB by statute is responsible for administering the Indian Arts and Crafts Act (IACA), an anti-counterfeiting law to protect Indian artists and consumers. Mr. Rath’s actions demean and rob authentic Indian artists who rely on the creation and sale of their artwork to put food on the table, make ends meet, and pass along these important cultural traditions and skills from one generation to the next. His actions also undermine consumers’ confidence in the Indian art market in the Northwest and nationwide. Due to the outstanding work of the Office of the U.S. Attorney-Western District of Washington and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service IACA Investigative Unit, Mr. Rath is being held accountable and the message is clear. For those selling counterfeit Indian art and craftwork it is important to know that wherever you are we will diligently work to find you and prosecute you under the Indian Arts and Crafts Act.”
The case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney and Tribal Liaison J. Tate London.
Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Delaney Hewitt at 206-553-7970 or Delaney.Hewitt@usdoj.gov.