Artist faked Apache heritage to trick collectors into buying his work at inflated prices, say Feds
An artist faked his heritage as a member of the San Carlos Apache tribe in order to sell his woodwork art pieces at inflated prices, the federal agents have said.
Lewis Anthony Rath, 52, works as an artist producing wooden carvings and large wooden totem poles – allegedly professing his pieces to be Indian produced’.
Its claimed Rath led collectors to believe they were purchasing authentic Native American carvings from him – when in fact his ancestry can be traced back to Mexico.
Federal agents claim they were told by buyers that Rath had described himself as ‘Apache, Mexican and Mayan’ and ‘Apache and Mayan’ – and had done so up to two dozen times.
Agents from the US Fish and Wildlife Service were told by Rath that ‘his birth mother told him he had some Indian bloodlines that may be Apache. However, he explained that he later discovered through DNA testing that he had Mayan ancestry from Mexico,’ the Daily Beast reports.
Lewis Anthony Rath, 52, (pictured) has been charged with misrepresentation of Indian produced goods after allegedly falsely claiming he belonged to a Native American tribe
As a result, the Washington state-based artist is now facing three counts of misrepresentation of Indian produced goods and products, and two counts of unlawful possession of migratory bird parts, including golden eagle feathers.
The maximum possible sentence that could be imposed for the top charge is five years in prison.
He was charged on Tuesday and as of Wednesday did not have legal representation.
Federal agents initially became aware of Rath’s alleged faked heritage back in July 2018 after the Department of the Interior (DOI) received a complaint about Rath selling ‘Indian produced’ carvings and claiming that he was of San Carlos Apache heritage.
The San Carlos Apache Tribal Enrollment Department confirmed to federal agents that Rath was not an enrolled member, and in the year that followed, agents purchased a totem pole and necklace from an art gallery in Seattle, both of which were Rath’s works.
After uncovering other artwork produced by Rath from Seattle galleries, the agents were told by the owners of each gallery that Rath had provided them with information about himself, which they had then turned into a biography.
Federal agents claim they were told by buyers that Rath (pictured) had described himself as ‘Apache, Mexican and Mayan’ and ‘Apache and Mayan’ – and had done so up to two dozen times