Celeb Designer Gets 18 Months for Smuggling Snakeskin Purses

Nancy Gonzalez apologized at her sentencing hearing
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 23, 2024 1:30 AM CDT
Fashion Designer Gets 18 Months for Smuggling Snakeskin Purses
Celebrity handbag designer Nancy Gonzalez hides under an umbrella as she walks with her lawyer Andrea Lopez outside the federal courthouse Monday, April 22, 2024, in Miami.   (AP Photo/Josh Goodman)

A fashion designer popular with celebrities was on Monday sentenced to a year and a half behind bars for smuggling handbags made with animal skin into the US. Nancy Gonzalez, 71, is from Colombia, and prosecutors said she used family members, friends, and employees to bring the handbags and totes into the country illegally via passenger airlines, the BBC reports. She was arrested in Colombia in 2022 and extradited to the US to face charges that she violated US wildlife laws, the Guardian reports. Her company, which was based in Colombia and once employed 300 employees (most of whom were women) shut down after she was arrested.

The bags in question were made with skin from caimans, which are similar to alligators, and pythons; though trade in those skins is not banned in the US, it is highly regulated under an international treaty, and Gonzalez failed to secure the required permits or declare the items. Her lawyers said just 1% of the merchandise she imported into the US lacked the necessary authorization (and that those pieces were used as samples), but prosecutors described a scheme that made her as much as $2 million. Gonzalez's celebrity clients include Salma Hayek, Britney Spears, Victoria Beckham, and the cast of Sex and the City. (More fashion designer stories.)

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