A federal grand jury has indicted a man from Kingwood, TX, for selling allegedly fraudulent products made by Native Americans over the Internet.
The indictment charges Kevin Charles Kowalis, 58, with four counts of mail fraud and four counts of misrepresenting Indian goods under India’s Arts and Crafts Act. If convicted, Kowalis could face up to 20 years in federal prison for mail fraud and up to five years for misrepresenting Indian goods, according to a press release from the U.S. District Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas.
The indictment alleges that from January 23 to July 15, 2020, Kowalis fraudulently marketed and sold on eBay.com jewelry he received from a manufacturer in the Philippines not affiliated with a federally recognized Native American tribe . The indictment alleges that Kowalis described the items for sale on eBay as “Native American Indian Handmade”, “Zuni”, “Navajo” and “genuine handcrafted Indians”.
He reportedly received payment through PayPal. Authorities say that once payment was received, Kowalis shipped the jewelry to the customer using the U.S. Postal Service, including several packages containing counterfeit Native American-style jewelry to a buyer in San Antonio.
“Native American artistic fraud is a serious crime that harms consumers and seriously affects the economic and cultural livelihoods of Native American artists, artisans and tribes,” said Edward Grace, deputy director of the Fish Law Enforcement Office. and Wildlife Service of the United States. “Our special agents are investigating crimes in violation of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act on behalf of the US Department of Home Affairs and the Indian Arts and Crafts Board. By working together, we can help protect and preserve Native American art and crafts for future generations. “