ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The former owner of an Anchorage gift shop has been sentenced to probation for wrongly marketing hundreds of his own carvings as having been made by an Alaska Native artist.
Lee Screnock, 60, was sentenced on Wednesday and was prosecuted under the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, which was created to protect Alaska Native and American Indian artisans from having customary artwork copied and sold as authentic by non-Native people, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
Screnock was sentenced to five years of probation and was banned from selling wildlife products during that time. He was also ordered to pay $2,500 in restitution to the Indian Arts and Crafts Board.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents said Screnock misrepresented carvings sold in his shop called Arctic Treasures as having been made by a person named “Savuk,” whom he described as being from Point Hope.
Gretchen Staft, the defendant’s attorney, said Screnock was given the nickname by an Alaska Native artist he had collaborated with in the past.
“Mr. Screnock felt great pride in the receipt of this nickname, and he adopted the signature for his artwork,” she wrote in a federal sentencing memorandum on his behalf.
Prosecutor Adam Alexander wrote in a sentencing memorandum that after explicitly warning Screnock, agents seized 450 art pieces in 2018, most of which consisted of walrus ivory. The total value of the pieces was about $125,000, Alexander said.
“Every sale represented … harm done to small communities statewide that depend in part on the sale of Alaska Native produced arts and crafts,” Alexander wrote.
In a sentencing memorandum, Staft wrote that Screnock made a mistake.
Staft said at his sentencing that Screnock’s health and memory had been declining recently, and he had been dealing with family stress.