One woman’s need for the finer things in life has landed her in prison. According to the Washington Post, Praepitcha Smatsorabudh’s knack for selling and returning knockoff designer bags warranted her 30 months behind bars for wire fraud. The Thailand native would purchase designer bags from major department stores, but return its fake resemblance to outlets like T.J. Maxx, that claimed she was the brand’s “biggest online customer in the world.”
Between her return trips to the aforementioned retailer and Neiman Marcus, the stores endured a $400,000 loss due to fake merchandise. Customers on the former preschool teacher’s Instagram page were also sold false items where she raked in thousands of dollars in profits. According to her attorney, Nina Ginsberg, the 41-year-old’s addiction to this practice stemmed from her abusive upbringing in Thailand.
“This whole collecting of these handbags, returning of these handbags — it became a substitute for human connection, which I think is profoundly sad,” Ginsberg said. “I think it was brought on by … extreme bouts of loneliness and isolation.”
Smatsorabudh purchased bags from brands’ websites including Gucci, Balenciaga, and Fendi, New York Post reports, but would arrive at various stores to return its fake likeness — which arrived from East Asia — and receive upwards of $2,000. She was caught after an investigator assumed the role of an eBay customer and bought a Celine bag from her account. The bag along with the receipt was traced back to a T.J. Maxx store where they realized Smatsorabudh falsified the online receipt. T.J. Maxx discovered 226 fake bags were returned by Smatsorabudh.
During a raid of her Arlington, Va. home, 572 authentic and fake handbags were uncovered. Smatsorabudh will now have to pay $403,250.81 in restitution and might get deported to Thailand upon her release.
Judge Gerald Bruce Lee was taken aback by Smatsorabudh’s case. “I think what you did was ingenious,” he said. “It’s just stealing, but the Internet has given us so many more ways to steal … I thought I’d seen everything.”