The truth usually comes out, as one woman is learning the hard way now that her illegal money-making scam has been revealed, according to ABC News. Praepitcha Smatsorabudh of Arlington, Va., has spent years buying designer handbags — including Celine, Fendi, Givenchy, and Yves Saint Laurent — from department stores, then purchasing cheap knockoffs and returning the bogus bags for the full price she paid for the authentic ones. Then she sold the real designer accessories for thousands of dollars on Instagram.
Authorities caught on to the 41-year-old’s racket, though, and arrested her last May. On Wednesday, Smatsorabudh was sentenced to 30 months in prison, according to the Daily Mail, in addition to three years of supervised release. She’s also been ordered to pay “$403,250.81 in forfeiture and the same amount in restitution to her victims,” the publication says. The total still doesn’t amount to the sum that Smatsorabudh was able to swindle from her victims.
CBS News says that the woman received about $1 million from a single store alone, which the Daily Mail later confirmed is T.J. Maxx. In fact, the publication states that she was once the company’s biggest single online customer. Neiman Marcus was also targeted. In an act of incredible gall, Smatsorabudh would take the bags she received through her online purchases, then travel to stores across across 12 states — about 60 stores in total — to make the fraudulent returns. The Daily Mail estimates that the shady shopper cost department stores about $400,000.
Bear in mind that those stores resold the returned knockoffs and sold them for the full price of designer bags, unwittingly duping their own customers. And then there were the online customers to whom Smatsorabudh sold incredibly marked up authentic merchandise.
Smatsorabudh is originally from Thailand but had been living in Arlington on a student visa, according to the Daily Mail. She was apparently buying the bogus bags she returned to department stores from suppliers in China and Hong Kong, federal authorities told the publication. In September 2014, the sinister saleswoman even emailed one of the suppliers with the message, “The best fake bag I’ve ever seen! Can you send me more … from this factory. They make bag IMPaCABLE [sic]!!!!,” says the Daily Mail.
It was T.J. Maxx that first discovered the scam, possibly because that company was hit the hardest by Smatsorabudh’s scheme. Employees from the department store contacted police, who then began investigating the situation. When they had enough evidence, “an undercover Homeland Security officer posed as a buyer online and bought one of the designer bags from [Smatsorabudh],” says the Daily Mail. “Federal authorities raided her home and found 572 handbags, of which some were fake, court documents say.”
Smatsorabudh ran an Instagram account called “Rich Girls Collection,” according to Cosmopolitan. The account still exists, and refers users to an eBay store as well. In addition to swindling innocent fashion lovers, Smatsorabudh also apparently had an obsessive love of sushi. The account is a curious combination of Japanese cuisine and designer handbags.
Her last, most recent post, published 43 weeks ago, is eerily prophetic. It reads, “What comes easy won’t last, what lasts won’t come easy.” It’s as if she knew she’d soon be caught. Her attorney tried to explain away her nefarious behavior by saying “her ‘compulsion’ for designer handbags” was motivated by “‘isolation and loneliness,’ and ‘became a substitute for human connection,’” says Cosmo. But Smatsorabudh herself is making no excuses for her actions. According to the Washington Post, she had this to say after she was sentenced: “What I did was so wrong. I deserve to be in jail.”
The judge responded, “I think what you did was ingenious. It’s stealing, but the Internet has given us so many more ways to steal. I thought I’d seen everything.” According to Cosmo, Smatsorabudh is likely to be deported back to Thailand once she’s released from jail.