Famous designer accused of smuggling crocodile handbags
WASHINGTON (AP) — A prominent fashion designer whose accessories have been used by celebrities and characters on the “Sex and the City” television series, has been arrested in her hometown of Cali, Colombia, and faces to be extradited to the United States for smuggling crocodile handbags, Colombian prosecutors announced on Friday.
Nancy Gonzalez is facing charges in the Southern US District of Florida that could result in up to 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
Although the sale of some crocodile skins is legal, it requires a certificate, which can be expensive and difficult to obtain.
Investigators in the United States and Colombia claim that Gonzalez smuggled hundreds of handbags by paying passengers to carry them in their personal luggage on flights to the United States and asked them to say that the items were gifts for loved ones if questioned by customs officials.
Handbags can sell for up to $10,000 in designer boutiques in the United States and Europe.
In 2019, two investigators working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service told The Associated Press that up to 12 people carrying four handbags each boarded a single flight to the US with paid round-trip tickets. by González. Investigators have requested that their identities remain anonymous so as not to compromise their investigation.
Gonzalez started out making belts and moved on to handbags in the late 1990s after a trip to New York, when she was encouraged by a designer store manager to build a collection. Salma Hayek, Britney Spears and Victoria Beckham allegedly bought her carefully made handbags, although it’s unclear if any of them were among the bags allegedly smuggled in. His work was also included in a 2008 exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
In a 2019 interview, Gonzalez told the Miami Herald that she felt “an enormous responsibility and commitment” to improve her products, every time she saw a photo or video of a celebrity using one of her products. hand bags.
An email sent to Gonzalez’s website requesting comment was not immediately returned.
Joshua Goodman reported from Cleveland, Ohio.