SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Thousands of tourists visit the Valley each year and many of them make it a point to visit some of the area's shops that feature authentic Indian goods.
But a years-long federal investigation reveals that several Valley jewelry makers and stores have been indicted on a number of charges and are accused of smuggling in jewelry from the Philippines and claiming it was made by Native Americans.
“To me, it’s totally bogus," said Richard Nisbet, one of the seven people indicted. He spoke with 12 News through his screen door.
He claims he is innocent.
“I’m just a guy that made turquoise jewelry, and I got wrapped up in other people’s problems," said Nisbet.
Documents reveal Nisbet is one of the Valley jewelry designers and store owners accused of smuggling in fake jewelry from the Philippines and advertising that Native Americans made it.
Officials say Nisbet and his daughter, Laura Lott, would email photos of authentic Indian-made jewelry to manufacturers overseas, instructing them to make near-identical pieces.
In many cases, they would ask the manufacturers to incorporate well-known American Indian symbols and motifs.
"The jewelry was not indelibly marked with its country of origin, namely the Philippines, in violation of U.S. law, which enabled the conspirators/co-schemers to fraudulently display, advertise, and sell the jewelry to the U.S. public as Indian-made jewelry," reads the indictment.
Investigators say they would then deliver the jewelry to other retailers across the Valley, including Scottsdale Jewels on Brown Avenue, Last Chance Jewelers, Laura Marye Designs and Turquoise River Trading Company in Texas.
Many of the pieces would sell for more than $1,000.
Richard Nisbet, Laura Lott, Waleed Sarrar, Christian Coxon, Mency Remedio, Orlando Abellanosa and Ariel Adlawan Canedo all face a laundry list of charges, including conspiracy and misrepresentation of Indian produced goods and products.
According to court documents, Lott kept an electronic copy of a "Certificate of Navajo Indian Blood" supposedly issued by the Navajo Nation. It included the Indian Census Roll Number associated with an actual member of the Navajo Nation, but the certificate had been altered to remove that member's name.
Nisbet says he plans on fighting the allegations.
“I never misrepresented anything," he said.
12 News spoke with Waleed Sarrar of Scottsdale Jewels over the phone. He did not want to do an interview but said he would send a written statement. We will update this article when we receive it.
You can read the full indictment below.