Con Artist Made $1 Million Returning Fake Designer Bags To Department Stores

A clever con artist pocketed over $1 million — including over $400,000 from Neiman Marcus and T.J. Maxx alone — in a complex scam that involved buying expensive designer handbags from department stores and then returning convincing fakes
A judge sentenced Praepitcha Smatsorabudh, 41, to 30 months in prison last week. In March, the feds discovered 572 handbags, both real and fake, in her home, and she pleaded guilty to wire fraud in August, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Judge Gerald Bruce Lee called the defendant’s fraud “ingenious,” according to The Washington Post. “It’s just stealing, but the internet has given us so many more ways to steal. … I thought I’d seen everything,” he said.

Smatsorabudh’s scam started when she bought expensive bags with labels including Gucci, Burberry, and Fendi from department-store websites.

Investigators said that she would then order realistic-looking fake bags from China and Hong Kong and return them in person to the store — picking up huge amounts of cash.

She also sold some of the authentic handbags, some worth over $2,000, through eBay — and posted snapshots on her Instagram account “richgirlscollection.” Ironically, she describes her service on Instagram as “100% Authentic Base in NY,” and a few angry commenters have posted their outrage about the fact that she may have been selling “fake ass bags.”

Her bogus bag scam was busted in December 2015, when an undercover Homeland Security agent posed as an eBay customer and purchased a $2,575 Celine handbag from her. The feds traced the bag back to T.J. Maxx, and discovered that she had altered the receipt in order to return a Fendi purse instead for a $2,199 refund.

The con artist was also sentenced to three years of supervised release to follow her prison time, and will likely be deported to Thailand after she is released. In addition, she must pay $403,250.81 in restitution and the same amount in forfeiture.

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Sasha Perkins

Administrative Assistant and Journalist at the Pluto Daily since 2012.