Renowned handbag designer Nancy Gonzalez imprisoned for wildlife smuggling


Colombian luxury handbag designer Nancy Gonzalez, known for her creations carried by celebrities like those in Sex and the City and Britney Spears, has been sentenced to 18 months in prison

after pleading guilty to smuggling purses made from the skins of protected reptiles.

The sentencing took place on Monday in a Miami federal court, where Gonzalez, aged 71, admitted to breaking an international treaty by unlawfully importing handbags made from caimans and pythons.

Both Colombia and the US are parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which safeguards caimans, akin to alligators, and pythons, as outlined by the US Department of Justice.

Although trade in caimans and pythons isn't outright prohibited, it is strictly regulated under CITES regulations, which Gonzalez failed to adhere to by neglecting to obtain the requisite import permits.

Between February 2016 and April 2019, authorities assert that Gonzalez enlisted the help of acquaintances, family members, and employees to transport the contraband bags via commercial airlines to the US before forwarding them to her showroom in New York.

These luxury handbags, reportedly worn by celebrities like Victoria Beckham and Salma Hayek and featured in a 2008 exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, were also retailed at prestigious stores such as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Harrods, according to reports.

Edward Grace of the US Fish and Wildlife Service condemned Gonzalez's actions, stating, "This investigation uncovered a multi-year scheme that involved paid couriers smuggling undeclared handbags made of CITES-protected reptile skins into the US to be sold for thousands of dollars." He emphasized the Service's commitment to pursuing justice for exploited protected species and holding accountable those who seek to evade international regulations governing their sustainable trade.

Gonzalez, who was apprehended in Cali, Colombia, in 2022 and subsequently extradited to the US to face charges, expressed remorse during her court appearance, offering an apology to the United States of America. Photo by  Miami92 at English Wikipedia.

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