Praepitcha Smatsorabudh, a woman who made more than $1 million in a multi-year scheme in which she purchased designer purses from department stores, then returned counterfeit versions to get her money back, has been sentenced to over two years in prison. Smatsorabudh, 41, has also been ordered to pay upwards of $400,000 in restitution to the parties harmed as a result of her illegal activities, including Neiman Marcus and T.J. Maxx.
According to prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia, Smatsorabudh, a preschool teacher, purchased Gucci, Fendi, Céline, Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent, and Hermès bags – among others – from more than 60 T.J. Maxx stores in 12 states, using 16 different credit cards to avoid detection. Court documents state that at one point, Smatsorabudh was the company’s biggest online customer in the world – with the retailer identifying at least 226 fake handbags returned by Smatsorabudh, which she smuggled into the U.S. from China and Hong Kong. Neiman Marcus found 10 more.
Prosecutors told the court that while Smatsorabudh turned around and sold many of the authentic handbags – some worth over $2,000 – on eBay or by way of her Instagram account, @richgirlscollection, she kept dozens or perhaps hundreds of high-end bags for herself as a result of a “compulsion to have expensive handbags.” She also earned enough money to buy a Lexus, fly first class and stay in luxury hotels in Miami and Las Vegas, according to prosecutors.
Authorities began investigating Smatsorabudh in 2015 and in December of last year, an undercover U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (“ICE”) Homeland Security Investigations agent posed as an eBay customer and purchased a $2,575 Céline handbag from her, which was traced back to T.J. Maxx. ICE discovered that Smatsorabudh had doctored the Céline receipt in order to be able to return a Fendi purse instead and collect a $2,199.99 refund from the retailer.
In March, the federal agents raided Smatsorabudh’s Arlington, Virginia home and discovered 572 handbags, both real and fake, court papers say. She pleaded guilty to wire fraud in August. She pleaded guilty to wire fraud on August 3 and was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee, who told her in court, “I think what you did was ingenious. It’s just stealing, but the Internet has given us so many more ways to steal. … I thought I’d seen everything.”
She will likely be deported back to Thailand after her prison stint.
* The case is US v. Smatsorabudh, No. 16-cr-168.