Top fashion designers, prison for smuggling crocodile bags. “Her mission has turned into producing criminals”

A top fashion designer whose accessories were worn by celebrities from Britney Spears to the cast of TV's 'Sex and the City' has been sentenced to 18 months in prison. She pleaded guilty in federal court in Miami to a charge of smuggling crocodile skin bags.

Nancy Gonzalez, arrested for smuggling PHOTO Capture Youtube/ CAMBIO

Nancy Gonzalez was arrested in 2022 in Cali, Colombia, and later extradited to the US for running an illegal business for several years that involved recruiting couriers to carry her bags on commercial flights to showrooms luxury and fashion events in New York – all in violation of US law and wildlife laws, according to The Guardian.

Everything is determined by money”said Assistant US Attorney Thomas Watts-Fitzgerald, who compared Gonzalez's behavior to that of drug dealers.

If you want to discourage the behavior, you want to you go TO trafficker of cocaine, not the person on the field”, he added.

Gonzalez's lawyers asked for leniency for the famed designer, describing her as a divorced single mother of two whose business, which started out as belts made on a sewing machine at her home in Cali for friends, turned into into a fashion giant that has surpassed Dior, Prada and Gucci.

She was determined to show her children and the world that women, including minority women like herself, can successfully achieve their dreams and become financially independent. Athis small but mighty woman managed to create the first high-end luxury fashion company in a third world country”they said in a note, before Monday's hearing.

His company went bankrupt

Lawyers said the 71-year-old designer had already paid dearly for his wrongdoing. The Colombian company she built, which once employed 300 people, mostly women, went bankrupt and went out of business after her arrest.

They also claimed that only 1% of the goods he imported into the US did not have the proper clearance and were samples for New York Fashion Week and other events.

Gonzalez, addressing the court before the sentencing, said she deeply regretted not scrupulously following US laws and that her only wish was to hug her 103-year-old mother one more time.

From the bottom of my heart, I apologize to the United States of America. I never intended to offend a country to which I owe immense gratitude”she said, almost in tears. “Under pressure, I made bad decisions.”

Prosecutors countered that Gonzalez had acquired great wealth and an opulent lifestyle that contrasted with the lives of the couriers he recruited to smuggle his contraband into the US.

Gonzalez's couriers compared to drug dealers

Couriers were instructed to say the items were gifts for their relatives if customs agents asked questions.

Her mission turned into the production of felonWatts-Fitzgerald said. “She tried to rewrite the law for herself, to do it her way.”

According to testimony from her co-defendants and former employees, before major fashion events, Gonzalez, described as a micromanager, would recruit up to 40 couriers to carry four designer bags each on commercial flights.

In doing so, prosecutors estimate she smuggled goods that brought her as much as $2 million into the US. Gonzalez's lawyers disputed the claim and said each skin only cost about $140.

All skins were from captive-bred caimans and pythons. However, on some occasions, she was unable to obtain the proper import permits from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which apply to trade in endangered and threatened wildlife.

“In 2016 and 2017, US officials warned her about these rules”Judge Robert Scola said in his sentencing.

Prosecutors had asked for a stiffer sentence of 30 to 37 months, but Scola said he took into account the nearly 14 months he spent in harsher conditions in a Colombian prison awaiting extradition. Gonzalez, who was released on bail to her daughter's home in Miami, is due to turn herself in on June 6 to begin her sentence.

His creations, worn by famous personalities

Salma Hayek, Britney Spears and Victoria Beckham are among the celebrities who have purchased Gonzalez's handbags. Her work was also included in a 2008 exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.