Falsely claimed ownership of Huhugam artifacts
Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced today a judge sentenced 54-year-old Gerardo Alonzo Avila to one year in prison after he pled guilty to one count of insurance fraud, a class 6 felony.
Avila filed a claim with his insurance company, Liberty Mutual, stating his home in Maricopa was burglarized on Sept. 22, 2013. Avila inflated his claim by stating valuable Native American artifacts were stolen worth more than $220,000.
“We believe Avila had a legitimate home burglary claim but then decided to come up with a wild story to increase the amount of money he got back from his insurance company,” Brnovich said. “He submitted photos of Native American artifacts and claimed they were stolen from his home. It turns out those artifacts were never his, they were never stolen, and were in fact on display at a local heritage center.”
After an investigation by the Arizona Department of Insurance Fraud Unit and Liberty Mutual, it was determined the items depicted in Avila’s photos were unique Native American artifacts that were on display at the Huhugam Heritage Center run by the Gila River Indian Community.
The artifacts were from a Snaketown archaeological site, which were excavated in 1934 and 1965, and were in the possession of Arizona State Museum’s Archaeological Repository Curator. The artifacts were transferred to the Gila River Community’s Huhugam Cultural Center in 2004.
Avila was also ordered to pay investigative costs of $9,531 to Liberty Mutual Insurance and $599.36 to the Arizona Department of Insurance for deposit in the state’s general fund to defray investigation costs paid by Arizona taxpayers.
Assistant Attorney General Beverly Rudnick prosecuted this case.