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Million-dollar handbag habit lands scammer in jail

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A woman who made more than $1 million by purchasing designer purses from department stores and returning counterfeit versions to get her money back has been sentenced to 30 months in federal prison and fined more than $400,000.

The stores affected by 41-year-old Praepitcha Smatsorabudh’s multiyear scheme include Neiman Marcus and T.J. Maxx., according to the blog Fashionlaw.com, which covers the fashion industry.

Federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia say Ms. Smatsorabudh, a preschool teacher who lived in Arlington, Virginia, purchased the Gucci, Fendi, Céline, Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent, and Hermès bags from more than 60 T.J. Maxx stores in 12 states, using 16 different credit cards to avoid detection, the website reported. Some bags are worth well over $2,000, it said. 

According to court documents accessed by Fashionlaw.com, Ms. Smatsorabudh was T.J. Maxx’s biggest online customer in the world, with the retailer identifying at least 226 fake purses returned by Ms. Smatsorabudh, which she smuggled into the United States from China and Hong Kong and later sold some on resale websites such as eBay and via her Instagram account.

Upon her sentencing in late December, U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee said of her illegal practice: “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.”