State sues Ketchikan stores for selling fake Alaska jewelry

The state last month sued the owners of three Ketchikan jewelry stores, alleging a broad scheme to defraud Alaskans and tourists by selling fake made-in-Alaska jewelry.

The stores, which include Soni Inc. and Colors Fine Jewelers, initially continued operations despite the state’s request for a court order closing them, reported radio station KRBD in Ketchikan.

As of Thursday, June 6, Soni was still open; no one answered the phone at Colors Fine Jewelers.

The case is one of several consumer-protection lawsuits filed by the Alaska Department of Law in recent months, and more may be coming under the state’s draft operating budget.

The budget, which covers the 12 months beginning July 1, is awaiting Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s signature. It contains a line-item increase of almost $600,000 for three new workers in the department’s consumer protection section.

The Alaska Legislature approved the additions, which include a new prosecutor, investigator and paralegal, all based in Anchorage.

Dunleavy has the ability to reduce or eliminate budgetary line items, but he requested the additions, making a veto unlikely.

“We expect that with these staffing increases you will continue to see more consumer protection actions from the attorney general in the coming years,” said Sam Curtis, an information officer with the Department of Law.

The additions were especially notable because lawmakers preserved the new positions even while cutting elsewhere in the Department of Law.

Curtis said the consumer protection unit “typically files high-impact cases that involve numerous transactions, witnesses, and victims, and that require extensive investigation.”

In last month’s filing, prosecutors said they conducted an undercover investigation and impounded a variety of jewelry for testing.

Those tests found salespeople were misrepresenting the value of the jewelry and its origin, state attorneys said, alleging violations of the state’s unfair trade practices act.

Curtis said the department has been filing a growing number of consumer-protection cases overall in recent years, something the agency attributes “primarily to an increase in staffing in late 2018, when the consumer protection unit was able to hire a full-time investigator for the first time in many years.”

The Alaska Beacon is an independent, donor-funded news organization. Alaskabeacon.com.

 

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