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Anchorage man sentenced after selling counterfeits of Alaska Native-made work

Photo evidence of a polar bear skull which was sold to an undercover agent in 2018. USFWS photo.
Photo evidence of a polar bear skull which was sold to an undercover agent in 2018. USFWS photo.(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Published: Mar. 25, 2021 at 2:47 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A 60-year-old Anchorage man was sentenced this month for “misrepresenting hundreds of his own carvings as being made by an Alaska Native artist,” according the Department of the Interior.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason, of the District of Alaska, sentenced Lee Screnock on March 10 for the counterfeits. Screnock’s actions constituted a felony violation of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, which specifically “prohibits false marketing of arts and crafts products as Alaska Native, American Indian, or as the product of a particular Indian tribe within the United States.”

First charged with a felony violation of the IACA, Screnock – who at the time owned downtown Anchorage gift shop Arctic Treasures, according to the release – was also charged with a misdemeanor violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 2018.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2019 also said Screnock knowingly offered illegal wildlife parts for sale, including a polar bear skull and walrus oosik.

A recent joint release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service and the Indian Arts and Crafts Board said that the federal investigation into Screnock began in 2015, when he sold a polar bear skull to an undercover USFW special agent.

Undercover agents visited Screnock’s store again, including in 2017, when they asked about carvings made by “Savuk,” Screnock’s known nickname. He had told the agents Savuk is an Alaska Native artist from Point Hope. The carvings, however, were actually made by Screnock.

Screnock was sentenced to pay $2,500 in restitution to the Indian Arts and Crafts Board as part of his sentencing. He was also ordered to perform 100 hours of community service; forfeit all seized retail products, which were valued at $125,000; and serve five years of probation, during which time he is not allowed to work with any wildlife products.

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