A Skagway business owner and her employee are scheduled to go to trial for allegedly misrepresenting Alaska Native-produced goods. In the spring, both pleaded not guilty to the federal misdemeanor charges against them.
Rosemary Libert owns Lynch and Kennedy Dry Goods on Broadway Street and Judy Gengler was an employee there.
The charges stem from a sting by an undercover U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent that took place in 2014 and 2015. Charging documents say Gengler ‘falsely represented’ a bone carving as work from a Native artist. Documents say the artist lives and works in Alaska but is not Alaska Native or a member of any American Indian tribe.
When the same undercover agent visited the store again later, Libert allegedly made the same claim that the bone carving artist was Alaska Native. The agent bought the carving.
The Indian Arts and Crafts Act states selling or displaying goods in a manner that falsely suggests they are Indian-produced illegal.
Libert and Gengler each face one federal misdemeanor charge. Both pleaded not guilty and were released on certain conditions. A jury trial is set for September 1. The two women are scheduled to be tried together.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife investigation also led to charges against three other Southeast Alaska store owners. They include Northstar Gifts and Diamond Island in Juneau and Alaskan Heritage in Ketchikan.
The Juneau Empire reports that both of the Juneau shopkeepers charged pleaded guilty. The owner for Northstar Gifts, Norma Carandang agreed to serve five years of probation, pay a $4,000 fine and donate $4,000 to the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, among other terms. Vinod Sippy of Diamond Island settled his case with a similar plea deal.
U.S. Assistant Attorney Jack Schmidt says Ketchikan’s Alaskan Heritage business owner Gabriel Karim is changing his original not guilty plea. That means of the five people charged in the sting, Libert and Gengler are the only ones who have maintained their not guilty plea.
The maximum penalty for the charges against Libert and Gengler is one year in jail or a $100,000 fine.