Fashion Designer Could Die in US Prison for Smuggling Endangered Animal Skin Handbags to New York on Passenger Planes

A renowned fashion designer from Colombia, aged 70, who owned a prestigious boutique in New York City, is now facing the possibility of dying in a US prison. The designer had been selling luxury handbags and accessories that are priced at over $2,000. Unfortunately, the designer had pleaded guilty to smuggling charges that involved merchandise made out of endangered animals such as Caimans and Pythons.

Nancy Teresa Gonzalez de Barberi, the driving force behind the Colombian fashion brand Nancy Gonzalez, used to create a fresh line of handbags for both New York fashion weeks annually. Additionally, she would also craft a third resort collection that debuted in June, showcasing her exceptional talent and dedication to her craft.

In a recent development, the seventy-year-old individual has admitted to his involvement in a conspiracy and the illegal smuggling of designer handbags. The plea was made in a Florida district court where the individual pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and two counts of smuggling. This was a result of the individual’s repeated involvement in the illegal importation of designer handbags.

Throughout a lengthy investigation, it was uncovered that Gonzalez and a group of accomplices had a consistent tactic of utilizing friends, family members, and other associates as couriers to unlawfully transport individuals into the United States.

Despite both animals being protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora since the 1970s, Gonzalez had her designs crafted from caiman and python skin in a Colombian factory with the plan of selling them in the United States.

The United States has strict regulations on the importation of caiman and python products for commercial purposes, in accordance with its status as a signatory of CITES. A valid license is required for importation, which can be difficult to obtain.

According to prosecutors, Gonzalez chose to bypass the licensing process and instead enlisted the help of her accomplices to transport over 20 designer handbags per trip on commercial flights from Colombia to New York and Miami. These individuals acted as mules, carrying the smuggled goods on Gonzalez’s behalf.

After several years of investigation, Gonzalez could potentially be imprisoned for a maximum of 20 years for each of the two smuggling charges. Additionally, he may face an additional five years in prison for the conspiracy charge, which occurred between February 2016 and April 2019. Furthermore, the potential fines for the designer amount to a staggering $500,000.

According to Markenzy Lapointe, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, a substantial amount of purses, handbags, and totes were illicitly brought into the United States. These products were then showcased in Gonzales’ showroom and bought by esteemed retailers to be resold as high-end items.

Each handbag had an average price tag exceeding $2,000.

A conspiracy involving multiple individuals was uncovered, and one of the suspects has already been extradited from Colombia. The individual is currently awaiting trial for their involvement in the scheme. However, one of the suspects is still at large, and efforts are ongoing to bring them to justice.

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MBS Staff
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