Wednesday, June 5, 2024
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State Sues Ketchikan Jeweler Over Fake Gold Sales

Ketchikan, Alaska— In a significant legal move, state prosecutors have filed a lawsuit against a jeweler operating two downtown storefronts in Ketchikan for allegedly selling fake gold. Attorney General Treg Taylor initiated the suit on Thursday against Soni, Inc., which owns Soni Jewelers, Colors Fine Jewelry, and an outlet inside Tongass Trading Company. The lawsuit also names the company’s director, Sunita “Soni” Lakhwani.

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Assistant Attorney General Ian Engelbeck detailed the investigation, revealing that state investigators made undercover purchases from these stores, which specialize in Alaska-themed jewelry popular with tourists during the cruise ship season. One undercover purchase in mid-September was of a ring represented as containing gold quartz mined in Alaska. However, lab tests indicated the ring was made of imitation materials.

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Following these findings, the state obtained an impound order from the Ketchikan Superior Court, allowing authorities to seize 10 pieces of jewelry from each store. Tests confirmed that the jewelry was composed of man-made “gold nuggets” and “gold quartz” sourced from out-of-state suppliers, not genuine Alaskan materials as claimed.

The lawsuit accuses Soni, Inc. of falsely advertising these imported materials as natural Alaskan stones and nuggets, supposedly handcrafted by local jewelers. Salespeople allegedly misled customers, claiming that natural gold quartz is unique to Alaska and legally available only there, which is factually incorrect.

Prosecutors emphasized that some salespeople, including Lakhwani, made these false claims directly to undercover investigators. The complaint cites instances where sales staff falsely identified imitation nuggets as 24-karat Alaskan gold. Investigators noted that even Lakhwani admitted uncertainty about the jewelry’s origins and acknowledged the stones were not from Alaska.

The complaint highlights the broader impact of such deceptive practices, stating they harm tourists, legitimate businesses, and Alaskan artisans. “These cases are important because it obviously hurts tourists who think they’re buying a genuine article,” Engelbeck said. “It also hurts businesses and Alaskan communities that are trying to do right and sell the real thing and it hurts Alaskan artisans who make the authentic thing and having imitation goods sold as real squeezes the real thing out of the market.”

State prosecutors have requested a temporary restraining order from the Ketchikan Superior Court to halt Soni, Inc.’s sale of fraudulent and misrepresented products. Despite the ongoing legal proceedings, the storefronts remain open for business during the tourist season.

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Alice
Alice
Alice is a seasoned jewelry designer renowned for her exquisite creations that seamlessly blend artistry with elegance. With a passion for craftsmanship and an unwavering commitment to quality, Alice has established herself as a distinguished figure in the world of fine jewelry. Drawing inspiration from diverse cultures and artistic movements, Alice brings a unique perspective to her designs, creating pieces that transcend mere accessories to become timeless works of art. Her meticulous attention to detail and insistence on using only the finest materials ensure that each creation reflects not only her artistic vision but also a commitment to unparalleled craftsmanship. Having honed her skills through years of dedicated practice and a keen understanding of evolving trends, Alice is adept at translating her clients' desires into bespoke, one-of-a-kind pieces. Her portfolio encompasses a range of styles, from classic and timeless to avant-garde and contemporary, showcasing her versatility and ability to cater to a diverse clientele.

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