The state of Alaska is accusing the owners of an Anchorage souvenir-making business of consumer fraud, saying in documents filed with Anchorage Superior Court that their “made in Alaska” products are actually made in the Philippines.
Robert Merry, Josephine Merry, Mary Uy and Mark Uy, owners of B. Merry Studio Inc., are facing a civil lawsuit from the state, which is seeking restitution, $25,000 per violation of the state’s consumer protection law, attorney fees, punitive damages, and an order that they stop using the “made in Alaska” label.
B. Merry Studio is a wholesaler that sells souvenir items to retail shops that then sell them to tourists. The state did not publish a full list of retailers carrying their products but said they were sold in Anchorage, Girdwood, Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Petersburg.
Online court records do not list the state lawsuit, but they do show that Robert Merry is facing charges of violating fish and game rules in a related case. The attorney representing Merry in that case did not immediately respond to an inquiry Friday afternoon. A phone call to B. Merry Studio was not returned.
According to the state, the studio purchases bones and antlers in Alaska, then ships them to the Philippines, where they are turned into knives and other products, sometimes using blades manufactured in China. The lawsuit says the company’s employees then remove stickers saying “made in the Philippines” and switch them for stickers saying that the items were made in Alaska.
Some of the items were labeled as being made from bones from the Steller’s sea cow, a manatee-like animal that was hunted to extinction in the 1760s.
Some bones are occasionally found on St. Lawrence Island and sold, but state investigators — using DNA testing — discovered that the company’s knives were made using bones from bowhead whales.
“B. Merry falsely labels items as Steller’s sea cow because Steller’s sea cow items fetch a high price and because B. Merry seeks to evade federal laws regarding the export, import, and sale of bowhead whale products,” the state said.
Online records for the federal district court in Alaska did not list any pending federal wildlife charges against B. Merry Studio or its owners on Friday.