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Fake Native American jewelry ring busted

A global counterfeit Native American jewelry ring responsible for millions of dollars of fraudulent sales has been uncovered in New Mexico.

Operation Al-Zuni was launched after fake jewelry was discovered in Albuquerque's Old Town and Santa Fe's Plaza. The apparent mastermind was Albuquerque businessman Jawad Khalaf.


“It was a very big deal,” former U.S. Attorney John Anderson says. “This crime spanned all the way from the Philippines across the western United States,” Anderson said.

The mastermind behind this scheme was Albuquerque businessman Jawad Khalaf. Together with several co-conspirators, they orchestrated a criminal enterprise involving tens of millions of dollars of phony Native American art. Ground zero for the con game was the Philippines. Hidden behind massive gates on a nondescript street in Cebu City was the nerve center of the illicit operation, a Filipino sweatshop called Fashion Accessories 4 U."

Many Native Americans rely on jewelry and accessory sales to support their livelihoods, and it is embedded in their economic ecosystem especially in New Mexico. The coronavirus also hit the Native Americans in New Mexico hard. Thankfully the US Department of Justice put an end to this scheme.

This was not a small counterfeit operation, greater than $10M in fake wholesale jewelry was seized. More from KRQE...

"Over the course of the investigation, Sterling Islands received truckloads of counterfeit jewelry with a wholesale value of $11,800,000. From Albuquerque, the knock-offs were sent to a Gallup wholesale distributor, Al-Zuni Global Jewelry, owned by Jawad Khalaf’s brother, Nash Khalaf.

From Gallup, the fakes were distributed to retail outlets all over the West. Federal documents show undercover agents located counterfeit merchandise manufactured in the Philippines offered for sale in Galleria Azul (Albuquerque), Gallery 8 (Albuquerque), Sundancer Gallery (Albuquerque), Momeni’s Gallery (Santa Fe), Gold House (Santa Fe), Silver Coyote (Santa Fe), and Bullion Jewelers (Breckenridge, Colorado)."

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