Celebrity designer accused of smuggling crocodile handbags

Jul 8, 2022, 4:24 AM | Updated: 4:40 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — A leading fashion designer whose accessories were used by celebrities and characters in the “Sex and the City” TV series, was arrested in her hometown of Cali, Colombia, and faces extradition to the United States on charges of smuggling crocodile handbags, Colombian prosecutors said Friday.

Nancy Gonzalez faces charges in the U.S. Southern District of Florida that could lead to up to 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

While the sale of some crocodile skins is legal, it requires a certificate, which can be costly and hard to obtain.

Investigators in the United States and Colombia say that Gonzalez smuggled hundreds of handbags by paying passengers to carry them in their personal luggage on flights to the United States and instructed them to say that the items were gifts for their relatives if they were asked any questions by customs agents.

The handbags can sell for up to $10,000 in designer stores in the U.S and Europe.

In 2019, two investigators working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told The Associated Press that as many as 12 people carrying four handbags each boarded a single flight to the United States with round-trip tickets paid for by Gonzalez. The investigators asked for their identities to remain anonymous in order to not jeopardize their probe.

Gonzalez started out by making belts and transitioned to handbags in the late 1990s following a trip to New York, when she was encouraged by a designer store executive to build up a collection. Salma Hayek, Britney Spears and Victoria Beckham reportedly bought her carefully crafted handbags, though it’s not clear if any of those were among the bags allegedly brought in illegally. Her work also was 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 picture or a video of a celebrity using one of her handbags.

An email sent to Gonzalez’s website seeking comment was not immediately returned.


Joshua Goodman reported from Cleveland, Ohio.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Much of drought-plagued West Coast faces salmon fishing ban

The surreal and desperate scramble boosted the survival rate of the hatchery-raised fish, but still it was not enough to reverse the declining stocks in the face of added challenges.
3 days ago
UCLA's Jaime Jaquez Jr. (24) shoots while defended by Gonzaga's Rasir Bolton (45) in the first half...
Associated Press

Gonzaga beats UCLA 79-76 in Sweet 16 on Strawther’s shot

Julian Strawther hit a 3-pointer with 6 seconds left to answer a 3-pointer by UCLA's Amari Bailey, lifting Gonzaga to a wild 79-76 NCAA Tournament win over UCLA Thursday night in the Sweet 16.
3 days ago
Associated Press

Officials: Safety device, human error derailed Wash. train

A safety device failed, knocking a train off the tracks last week, spilling diesel after leaving an oil refinery in Anacortes.
3 days ago
File - Credit cards as seen July 1, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. A low credit score can hurt your ability...
Associated Press

What the Fed rate increase means for your credit card bill

The Federal Reserve raised its key rate by another quarter point Wednesday, bringing it to the highest level in 15 years as part of an ongoing effort to ease inflation by making borrowing more expensive.
4 days ago
police lights distracted drivers shooting...
Associated Press

Authorities: Missing mom, daughter in Washington found dead

A missing Washington state woman and her daughter were found dead Wednesday, according to police.
4 days ago
Associated Press

Google’s artificially intelligent ‘Bard’ set for next stage

Google announced Tuesday it's allowing more people to interact with “ Bard,” the artificially intelligent chatbot the company is building to counter Microsoft's early lead in a pivotal battleground of technology.
5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.
SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!
safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Celebrity designer accused of smuggling crocodile handbags