A Luxury Handbag Designer Was Sentenced To 18 Months Behind Bars For Illegally Importing Purses Made Out Of Protected Reptile Skins

Victoria Fox - - illustrative purposes only, not the actual person

A 71-year-old Colombian luxury handbag designer has been sent to prison because of purse smuggling.

Nancy Gonzalez, the founder of luxury handbag company Gzuniga Ltd., was handed an 18-month prison sentence for illegally importing purses made out of the skins of protected reptiles, breaking an international treaty.

According to officials, Gonzalez recruited friends, family members, and employees to bring handbags and totes on passenger airlines to the United States between 2016 and 2019. Then, the bags were sent to her showroom in New York.

The U.S. and Colombia are both part of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The treaty ensures that the international trade of plants and animals does not put their survival in the wild at risk.

Caimans and pythons are under the treaty’s protection. These are the reptiles that Gonzalez’s bags are made of.

The trade of these creatures is not banned, but it is strictly regulated, and Gonzalez failed to obtain the import permits that are required by CITES rules.

Over the years, the designer has had her bags worn by various celebrities, including Victoria Beckham, Salma Hayek, and Britney Spears.

They were also featured in a 2008 exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. At one point, they were even sold in luxury stores such as Harrods, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Neiman Marcus.

“This investigation uncovered a multi-year scheme that involved paid couriers smuggling undeclared handbags made of CITES-protected reptile skins into the U.S. to be sold for thousands of dollars,” Edward Grace from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said.

Victoria Fox – – illustrative purposes only, not the actual person

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