Handbag Designer Nancy Gonzalez Gets 18 Months For Smuggling Crocodile Bags

(Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Bergdorf Goodman)

Mariane Angela Entertainment And News Reporter
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A handbag designer was sentenced to 18 months in prison Monday for smuggling crocodile bags, ABC News reported.

Fashion designer Nancy Gonzalez, 71, known for her celebrity-endorsed accessories, received a sentence of 18 months in prison after admitting to smuggling crocodile handbags into the U.S. from Colombia. The sentencing took place in a Miami federal court where Gonzalez faced charges stemming from her orchestrating a complex smuggling operation that violated U.S. wildlife laws, according to ABC News.

Gonzalez, who was arrested in 2022 in Cali, Colombia, and later extradited to the U.S., was accused of setting up a network that involved using couriers to transport her luxury handbags on commercial flights to exclusive showrooms and major fashion events in New York, the outlet stated. Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-Fitzgerald likened her to a drug kingpin in his courtroom remarks.

“It’s all driven by the money,” Watts-Fitzgerald said, ABC News reported. “If you want to deter the conduct, you want the cocaine kingpin, not the person in the field.” (RELATED: Man Charged With Smuggling Protected Turtles As Cookies)

Gonzalez’s defense attorneys argued for leniency and pointed out her background as a divorced single mother who rose from making belts on a sewing machine to competing with luxury giants like Dior and Prada, ABC News reported. They portrayed her as a pioneering entrepreneur in Colombia’s fashion industry, whose company, which primarily employed women, went bankrupt and ceased operations following her arrest.

During the sentencing, Gonzalez expressed remorse for her oversight in adhering to U.S. regulations, and tearfully apologized for her actions. She emphasized that her intention was never to disrespect the country for which she held great appreciation.

NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 5: Designer Nancy Gonzalez speaks at the 11th Annual ACE Awards at Cipriani on November 5, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

Prosecutors, however, presented a starkly different image of Gonzalez, detailing how she amassed significant wealth while exploiting couriers to illegally bring her products into the U.S.

“Her mission turned into producing felons,” Watts-Fitzgerald said, ABC News reported “She tried to rewrite the law for herself, to do it her way.”

Despite prosecutors seeking a sentence of up to 37 months, Judge Robert Scola reduced the term considering the 14 months Gonzalez already served under tough conditions in Colombia. She is scheduled to begin her sentence June 6, according to ABC News.