It’s a fashionista’s dream scheme. A clever con artist hatched an inventive plot to fuel her luxury handbag obsession — swindling more than $1 million by buying designer purses from department celine outlet stores, then returning knockoffs. A judge sentenced Praepitcha Smatsorabudh, 41, of Arlington, to 30 months in prison last week — and even he was impressed by her plot.
“I think what you did was ingenious,” Judge Gerald Bruce Lee said, 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. For years, Smatsorabudh bought pricey handbags from luxury designers like Gucci, Burberry and Fendi off department store websites. She’d then show up to the stores in person to return realistic fakes that she’d specially ordered from China and Hong Kong, federal authorities said.
“The best fake bag I’ve ever seen! Can you send me more … from this factory. They make bag IMPaCABLE!!!!” [sic],” Smatsorabudh wrote in a September 2014 email to a sh celine online store bogus-handbag supplier. But the scheme didn’t stop after she pocketed the refund. Smatsorabudh turned around and sold many of the authentic handbags, some worth over $2,000, through eBay or Instagram. Her Instagram account, called “richgirlscollection,” is littered with photos of designer bags, along with snapshots of sushi and pastries.
While Smatsorabudh typically returned replicas of the high-end bags she’d bought, in at least one instance she altered an online receipt so she could return an entirely different bag. In December 2015, an undercover Homeland Security agent posed as an eBay customer and purchased a $2,575 Celine handbag from her. They traced the handbag back to T.J. Maxx, and discovered she’d doctored the Cheap Celine receipt so much that she was able to return a Fendi purse instead and collect a $2,199.99 refund.
All told, Smatsorabudh hit more than 60 stores across 12 states, scamming Neiman Marcus and T.J. Maxx out of over $400,000, the US Department of Justice said. At one point, she even became T.J. Maxx’s biggest online customer in the world. In March, the feds raided her Arlington home and discovered 572 handbags, both real and fake, court papers say. She pleaded guilty to wire fraud in August.
The con artist was also sentenced to three years of supervised release, and she must pay $403,250.81 in restitution and the same amount in forfeiture. She will likely be deported to Thailand after her prison stint.