Celebrity designer faces prison for smuggling crocodile handbags

A fashion icon who designed accessories worn by celebrities as well as characters in the “Sex and the City” TV series faces 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to smuggling crocodile handbags into the U.S. from Colombia. 

Nancy Gonzalez was sentenced on Monday in Miami federal court. Gonzalez was arrested in Cali, Colombia, in 2022, and then extradited to the United States on charges of violating U.S. wildlife laws

Prosecutors said she recruited couriers to carry her pricey handbags on commercial flights, smuggling an estimated $2 million worth of products into the U.S. 

The designer bags were made from the hides of caiman and pythons bred in captivity, yet Gonzalez at times did not get the required import authorizations from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-Fitzgerald compared Gonzalez’s behavior to that of drug traffickers, saying she was driven by money

Attorneys for Gonzalez had requested leniency, writing in a memo that the single parent was determined to become financially independent. 

The judge who sentenced Gonzalez called her behavior particularly “egregious,” given U.S. officials warned her in 2016 and 2017 against skirting the agency’s rules. 

“From the bottom of my heart, I apologize to the United States of America. I never intended to offend a country to which I owe immense gratitude,” Gonzalez told the court, holding back tears. “Under pressure, I made poor decisions.”

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