A Colombian fashion designer whose clients include A-listers Britney Spears and Victoria Beckham has pleaded guilty to illegally smuggling her high-priced handbags to the US.
Nancy Teresa Gonzalez de Barberi, the 70-year-old entrepreneur behind the Nancy Gonzalez brand, used couriers to smuggle handbags made of endangered animals such as caiman and python snakes, according to federal prosecutors.
Gonzalez, who was extradited to the US by authorities in her native Colombia last year, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and smuggling in Miami federal court on Friday.
She faces five years in prison at her sentencing in February.
Gonzalez’s lawyer contends his client — whose handbags fetch more than $2,000 — was railroaded by prosecutors.
Rabin said that “her crime was not obtaining the proper paperwork for some samples so she could meet deadlines to get her goods to buyer’s shows” in New York.
“All of the purses that were sold in retail stores were properly documented,” Rabin told the Herald.
“Less than 1% of her purses were imported without documentation.”
The Post has sought comment from the Department of Justice.
Gonzalez, two of her employees, and her US-based company Gzuniga were named in the original indictment.
Diego Mauricio Rodriguez Giraldo, who is still in custody, has pleaded not guilty, though he is scheduled to change the plea at a hearing set for Nov. 28, according to the Miami Herald.
Authorities are seeking the arrest of another defendant, John Camilo Aguilar Jarmillo, who remains at large.
According to prosecutors, Gonzalez and her company used friends, relatives and employees to act as couriers and smuggle in hundreds of designer bags through Miami and New York’s Kennedy Airport while circumventing customs authorities.
“Once the designer handbags were smuggled into the United States, they were delivered or shipped to the Gzuniga showroom in Manhattan, New York, where they were put on display for high-end retailers to view and purchase for re-sale in their stores,” according to the US Attorney’s Office in Miami.
She was arrested in Colombia last year and spent months in jail before her extradition to the US.
“The actions taken by the government resulted in Ms. Gonzalez being unnecessarily incarcerated in Colombia with drug dealers and terrorists for more than one year while awaiting extradition to the United States, being put out of business and her hundreds of employees becoming unemployed,” Rabin told the Herald.