Last Friday, Nancy Gonzalez, the luxury-handbag designer with a roster of celebrity clients, pleaded guilty to federal charges of importing python and caiman (a type of crocodile) leather from Colombia to the U.S.
Gonzalez, a Colombian citizen, was extradited to the U.S. after being indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for charges of illegal smuggling and conspiracy earlier this year. Python and caiman are protected in both countries, according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Gonzalez and other defendants allegedly had friends and employees carry handbags on flights from Colombia to the States, where they were allegedly sold.
The designer’s lawyer, Sam Rabin, told WWD that Gonzalez was “unnecessarily incarcerated in Colombia with drug dealers and terrorists” for a year while awaiting extradition. He went on to write, via email, that Gonzalez’s “crime was not obtaining the proper paperwork for some samples so she could meet deadlines to get her goods to buyer’s shows.” He alleges that “less than 1 percent of her purses were imported without documentation. None of the animal skins used in her products came from animals taken in the wild. The skins came from farm-raised animals to ensure that they did not impact the population of animals in the wild.”
Gonzalez, who is 70, could face up to five years in prison for the conspiracy charge and up to 20 on each smuggling charge, as well fines of up to $250,000, or twice the intended gain from the relevant conduct, depending on which is more, for each count. She also could potentially be fined $500,000, or twice the intended gain from the relevant conduct, depending on which is greater, for each of the three counts if convicted.