Luxury Handbag Maker Sentenced for Smuggling Protected Wildlife Products

Published: Apr 26, 2024
by Michael Guta
In Small Business News


A luxury handbag company, its founder, and a co-conspirator have been sentenced to prison for illegally importing merchandise made from protected wildlife species, including caiman and python skin. The sentencing marks a significant victory in the fight against wildlife trafficking and serves as a warning to companies and individuals who engage in illegal activities.

Gzuniga Ltd., a luxury handbag company, was ordered to forfeit all handbags and products made from protected wildlife, banned from commercial trade in wildlife for three years, and sentenced to three years of probation. The company’s founder, Nancy Teresa Gonzalez de Barberi, was sentenced to 18 months in prison, with credit for time served, and three years of supervised release. Mauricio Giraldo, a co-conspirator, was sentenced to time served, approximately 22 months, and one year of supervised release.

The Illegal Activities

The illegal activities, which took place from February 2016 to April 2019, involved smuggling designer handbags made from caiman and python skin from Colombia to the United States. The conspirators used friends, relatives, and employees to wear or transport the handbags, which were then sold in the United States for thousands of dollars.

The caiman and python species are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), to which both the United States and Colombia are signatories. The illegal trade of these species is a significant threat to their survival and undermines conservation efforts.

“The United States is committed to protecting threatened and endangered species, both domestically and internationally,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We will not tolerate illegal smuggling, and we appreciate the efforts of our federal and international partners who have helped with the investigation, extradition, and prosecution of this case.”

The investigation, led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement, involved a multi-agency effort, including the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section, and the U.S. Marshals Service. The case highlights the importance of international cooperation in combating wildlife trafficking and the need for strict adherence to laws protecting endangered species.

Image: Dept. of Justice

Michael Guta
Michael Guta is the Assistant Editor at Small Business Trends and has been with the team for 9 years. He currently manages its East African editorial team. Michael brings with him many years of content experience in the digital ecosystem covering a wide range of industries. He holds a B.S. in Information Communication Technology, with an emphasis in Technology Management.

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