Washington Man Receives Monumental Sentence in Indian Arts and Crafts Act Case

JUNEAU, Alaska – A Washington state man was sentenced Monday for selling Philippine produced products as authentic Alaska Native produced artwork, violating the Indian Arts and Crafts Act.

According to court documents, Cristobal “Cris” Magno Rodrigo, 59, was sentenced to two years in federal prison. He is also required to make a $60,000 donation to the Tlingit and Haida Central Counsel Vocational Program, write a letter of apology to be published in the Ketchikan Daily Newspaper and serve three years’ supervised release. According to the Indian Art and Crafts Board, this is the longest sentence a defendant has received for any Indian Arts and Crafts violation in the U.S. – 18 months longer than any other sentence.

From April 2016 to December 2021, while residing in Washington state, Rodrigo and his family owned and operated Alaska Stone Arts LLC. and Rail Creek LLC. in Ketchikan, Alaska. Alaska Stone Arts LLC. primarily sold stone carvings, and Rail Creek LLC. primarily sold wooden totem poles. The carvings and totem poles were sourced from Rodrigo Creative Crafts, a company owned by his wife and located in the Philippines.

The Philippine business was created for the sole purpose of producing carvings featuring Alaska Native designs and motifs using Philippine labor. The carvings were shipped to the U.S. and then to the family’s stores in Ketchikan where they were later sold as authentic Alaska Native art.

Rodrigo also hired Alaska Natives at both Ketchikan stores to represent and sell Philippine produced artwork as their own authentic Alaska Native artwork. The workers told customers they were all related family working in the store and the art was all produced from locally sourced materials and made by Alaska Natives.

Prior to the conspiracy, Rodrigo worked in Alaska at different stores and shops producing stone carvings that were sold in the tourist trade for over 20 years. He taught the styles of Alaska Native stone art and wood totem poles to the Philippine based company.

In 2019 and for part of 2021, the family and their Alaska-based company employees sold over $1 million worth of Philippine made carvings presented as Alaska Native artwork.

Co-conspirators in this case include Glenda Tiglao Rodrigo, 46, and Christian Ryan Tiglao Rodrigo, 24. Their cases are ongoing.

“The actions the defendant took to purposefully deceive customers and forge artwork is a cultural affront to Alaska Native artisans who pride themselves on producing these historical works of art, and negatively affects those who make a living practicing the craft,” said U.S. Attorney S. Lane Tucker for the District of Alaska. “Mr. Rodrigo’s monumental sentence is a testament to the federal government’s dedication to prosecuting Indian Arts and Crafts Act violations, and the U.S. Attorney’s office will continue to work with law enforcement partners to protect Alaska Native cultural heritage and unwitting customers, and hold perpetrators accountable who carry out this type of fraud.”

“The Indian Arts and Crafts Board administers and enforces the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, a truth-in-marketing law,” said Indian Arts and Crafts Board Director Meridith Stanton. “The Act is intended to rid the Alaska Native and Indian arts and crafts marketplace of fakes and counterfeits, in order to protect the economic livelihoods and cultural heritage of Alaska Native and Indian artists and craftspeople and their Tribes and villages, as well as the buying public. Authentic Alaska Native art and craftwork is an important tool for passing down cultural traditions, traditional knowledge, and artistic skills from one generation to the next.  Fakes and counterfeits, such as those marketed for huge sums of money by the Rodrigos, tear at the very fabric of Alaska Native culture, Native livelihoods, and Native communities.  Mr. Rodrigo’s sentencing should send a strong message to those who prey upon authentic Alaska Native artists and vulnerable consumers that this destructive conduct will not be tolerated, and Act violators will be held accountable.”

“The Rodrigos sold imported products as Alaska Native made in their Ketchikan, Alaska store,” said Edward Grace, Assistant Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement. “This deceptive business practice cheated customers and undermined the economic livelihood of Alaska Native artists. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a dedicated team of special agents that work on violations of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act. This sentence was the result of the strong collaboration between our special agents, the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.” 

The Department of Interior – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Office of Law Enforcement, with assistance from the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, U.S. Customs and Boarder Protections, and U.S. Department of Agriculture, investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Schmidt prosecuted the case.

If you suspect potential Indian Arts and Crafts Act violations are 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, by emailing iacb@ios.doi.gov, or by calling 888-278-3253.

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