Virginia woman pocketed $1M buying designer handbags, returning Chinese knockoffs in their place
A Virginia woman was bagged by authorities for allegedly masterminding an elaborate designer-purse scheme, netting over $1 million in profit.
Praepitcha Smatsorabudh is accused of buying high-end handbags online, then traveling to multiple states to make in-person returns at department stores with knockoff versions purchased from China.
Smatsorabudh would double her profits by selling the authentic Gucci, Fendi and Burberry bags — some with a whopping $2,000 price tag — on Ebay or Instagram to unsuspecting buyers, prosecutors say.
Investigators probed the woman's purchases between 2014 and the end of 2015. She was such a prolific scammer, they found, that she would make weekly purchases of the costly totes — and was even one major retailer’s top online customer worldwide, according to documents which do not identify the vendor in question.
The alleged cutpurse faces up to 20 years in prison on wire fraud charges.
The scheming Smatsorabudh, who is in her early 40's, would travel to at least 12 different states to return the phony bags, having sourced the most believable fakes from Hong Kong and mainland China.
In a September 2014 email to one of the counterfeit bag retailers, she allegedly wrote:
"The best fake bag I’ve ever seen! Can you send me more ... from this factory. They make bag IMPaCABLE!!!!" (sic),” according to court documents obtained by ABC.
Authorities believe the scam was so profitable that Smatsorabudh raked in seven figures from one department store alone. That retailer's fraud investigators alerted authorities and helped the Arlington County Police Department and undercover Homeland Security agents bust the woman, court papers show.
Smatsorabudh, who was born in Thailand, will be arraigned next week in a federal court in Alexandria, Va.