Nancy Gonzalez, a renowned Colombian-born fashion designer, known for her exquisite handbags crafted from exotic skins, was arrested on July 9, 2022, in her hometown of Cali, Colombia. She faces charges of smuggling crocodile handbags into the United States, along with two other men, Diego Rodrigruez and John Aguilar. The trio is accused of violating international agreements on the importation of endangered animal products.
Gonzalez’s handbags, which can sell for up to $10,000 in designer stores across the United States and Europe, have been featured in popular films and television shows such as ‘Sex and the City’ and ‘The Devil Wears Prada.’ Her creations have also been carried by celebrities like Britney Spears, Victoria Beckham, and Salma Hayek.
Despite the legal sale of some crocodile skins, it requires obtaining a certificate, which can be costly and difficult to acquire. However, Gonzalez allegedly never obtained the necessary documentation. Instead, she and her colleagues are accused of paying couriers to smuggle hundreds of handbags made from endangered python and caiman skin into the U.S. through Miami and JFK airports between February 2016 and 2020.
In one instance in 2019, as many as 12 passengers boarded a flight to the U.S., each carrying four handbags, with round-trip tickets funded by Gonzalez. If questioned by customs officials, the smugglers were instructed to claim that the bags were gifts for friends and family.
Nancy Gonzalez began her career by making belts before transitioning to handbags in the late 1990s. Her work debuted in the United States at luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman and was later featured in an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2008. Despite her success, this recent arrest and the charges brought against her have cast a shadow over her illustrious career in the world of luxury fashion.
Following her arrest, Gonzalez now faces extradition to the U.S. Southern District of Florida, where she could face up to 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine if convicted. The trial date has yet to be announced, and currently, she and her co-conspirators remain in custody in the Southern District of Florida.