Fashion designer featured on Sex and the City smiles while extradited
Top fashion designer featured on Sex and the City smiles at cameras as she’s extradited to US from Columbia in handcuffs after being charged with smuggling endangered crocodile skin purses worth up to $10,000
Nancy Gonzalez has been extradited back to the U.S. from Colombia accused of smuggling purses made from endangered caiman and python skin
She allegedly paid a network of couriers to ferry the illicit products between the two countries over a four year period
Gonzalez told couriers to tell customs agents that the purses were gifts but she along with two other men face 20 years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines
A Colombian-born fashion designer, whose animal skin purses have been used by celebrities and characters in ‘Sex and the City,’ has been extradited to the U.S. on conspiracy and smuggling charges relating to the use of endangered species in her luxury handbag lines.
Nancy Gonzalez, 78, owner of Gzuniga Ltd, was fingerprinted and signed extradition papers prior to being escorted by Interpol officers onto a private jet from Bogotá, Colombia, to Florida on Wednesday.
She was seen smiling at photographers who gathered to take her photo.
Gonzalez together with two other men, Diego Mauricio Rodriguez and Jhon Camilo Jaramillom were indicted by authorities in Florida in April 2022 in coordination with an investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
She was accused of paying a network of couriers to fly hundreds of endangered python and caiman skin purses between the two countries.
If convicted on all charges, Gonzalez faces up to 25 years behind bars and a $500,000 fine.
Gonzalez’s satchels would sell for up to $10,000 each and have been sold in high-end department stores including Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman.
She and her alleged co-conspirators face up to 20 years in prison and $500,000 in fines after she allegedly used mules to smuggle more than 200 python- and caiman-skin purses and handbags into the US without a permit.
Most caiman species are endangered, but some skins can be sold as long as the seller has obtained a certificate under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species or CITES.
Gonzalez, however, never obtained such permission and beginning in February 2016, she and her colleagues are alleged to have paid runners to carry multiple crocodile and snake skin bags on flights into Miami and New York’s JFK airports over the subsequent four years.
The couriers would bring the clutches to the Gzuniga showroom in Midtown Manhattan where they would be sold or displayed during Fashion Week in September or Resort Week in June, according to a federal indictment filed in Miami federal court.
The fashion mules were told to say that the bags were gifts for friends and family if they were questioned by authorities.
Some were sold by Gonzalez for more than $10,000 a bag.
In 2019, as many as 12 people carrying four handbags each boarded a flight to the U.S. with round-trip tickets paid for by Gonzalez, investigators from the Fish and Wildlife Service revealed.
The investigators asked for their identities to remain anonymous in order to not jeopardize their probe.
When she was arrested in July 2022 following a joint investigation by Colombian police and European authorities, it was found that Gonzalez had illegally obtained endangered animal skins such as snake and deer with the intention of turning them into bags.
Gonzalez has been on remand in prison since her arrest.
Gonzalez started out by making belts and transitioned to handbags in the late 1990s following a trip to New York, when she was encouraged by a designer store executive to build up a collection.
Salma Hayek, Britney Spears and Victoria Beckham reportedly bought her carefully crafted handbags, although it’s not clear if any of those were among the bags allegedly brought in illegally.
Her work also was included in a 2008 exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
In a 2019 interview Gonzalez told the Miami Herald that she felt ‘an enormous responsibility and commitment’ to improve her products, every time she saw a picture or a video of a celebrity using one of her handbags.