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Colombian designer jailed 18 months over reptile handbags

A celebrity fashion designer was sentenced Monday to 18 months in prison for smuggling handbags made from the skin of protected reptiles into the United States.

Colombian national Nancy Gonzalez, 71, admitted in November to illegally importing purses made from caiman and python skins between February 2016 and April 2019.

Both animals are protected under a multinational treaty called the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

The purses, clutches and wallets by Gonzalez, a decorated designer, typically sell for thousands of dollars apiece and have appeared on catwalks and TV shows.

Her famous clients included Salma Hayek, Britney Spears and Victoria Beckham.

“Under pressure I made poor decisions,” a tearful Gonzalez told a Miami court Monday as defense counsel sought leniency for the divorced mother of two.

She was handed an 18-month jail sentence, which will be reduced as she spent 14 months in prison after her arrest in Colombia in July 2022. She was extradited to the United States last August.

Gonzalez solicited friends, family members and employees of her manufacturing company in Colombia to transport the reptile-skin handbags on commercial flights to the United States.

They were then delivered to the showrooms of Gonzalez’s company, Gzuniga, in New York, where high-end retailers could purchase them for resale in their stores.

The trafficking involved hundreds of purses and handbags with an average retail price exceeding $2,000 each, according to US prosecutors.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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