Washington man sentenced for selling fake Native art in Alaska

JUNEAU, Alaska. — Hundreds who were sold authentic Native art in Alaska over a five-and-a-half-year period from April 2016 to December 2021, were duped by a man from Washington state.

It turns out the art was produced overseas. Each piece was sold for upwards of $1,000 dollars, likely grossing millions. He even involved Alaskan Natives in his scheme, adding a bit of theater to make the fraud more convincing.

This week in Alaskan District Court in Juneau, 59-year-old Cristobal “Cris” Magno Rodrigo was sentenced to two years in federal prison for selling overseas-produced items as authentic Alaska Native artwork. After his sentence, he will be required to serve three years of supervised release.

He is also required to make a $60,000 donation to the Tlingit and Haida Central Counsel Vocational Program and write a letter of apology to be published in the Ketchikan Daily Newspaper.

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 art was all made in the Philippines, by a company owned by Rodrigo’s wife.

Rodrigo’s deception went even further. Prosecutors say he hired Alaska Natives in both of his stores to misrepresent the products as art they and their families had made themselves.

“This deceptive business practice cheated customers and undermined the economic livelihood of Alaska Native artists,” said Edward Grace, Assistant Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement.

Rodrigo violated the Indian Arts and Crafts Act. His sentence is by far the longest ever handed down on that charge.

The Indian Arts and Crafts Act makes it unlawful to offer, display for sale, or sell any good in a manner that falsely suggests that it was Indian-produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian tribe, resident in the United States.

“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,” said Indian Arts and Crafts Board Director Meridith Stanton.

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

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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