An Arlington woman arrested earlier this year for a counterfeit handbag fraud has been sentenced to jail time.
Federal prosecutors say 41-year-old Praepitcha Smatsorabudh would buy luxury handbags online, then return high-quality knockoff handbags to the store while selling the real bag online, netting big profits in the process
She was sentenced today to 30 months in prison and more than $800,000 in forfeiture and restitution, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
More from a press release:
Praepitcha Smatsorabudh, 41, of Arlington, was sentenced today to 30 months in prison for running a multiyear scheme to defraud department stores across the country. Smatsorabudh was also sentenced to three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $403,250.81 in forfeiture and the same amount in restitution to her victims.
Smatsorabudh pleaded guilty to wire fraud on August 3. According to court documents, Smatsorabudh bought brand name purses online and then returned in their place counterfeit purses, which were smuggled into the country from China. She then sold the authentic purses on Instagram for more than $2,000 each. In order to avoid detection, Smatsorabudh made fraudulent returns at over 60 department store locations in 12 states. In total, her scheme defrauded department stores out of more than $400,000.
Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; and Clark E. Settles, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kellen S. Dwyer prosecuted the case.
David Black Convicted, Sentenced for Wife’s Murder — An Arlington County jury this week found Arlington Ridge resident David Black guilty of murdering his wife. Bonnie Delgado Black was found stabbed to death in her home, which was just blocks from her estranged husband’s house, on April 17, 2015. Yesterday the jury recommended that Black serve two life sentences. [NBC 4, WTOP]
County Board Ditches New Year’s Day Meeting — Eschewing a long-standing tradition of holding its first meeting of the year on New Year’s Day, the Arlington County Board yesterday voted unanimously to hold its 2017 organizational meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 3. “We still will start our year off with the community, but without forcing employees to give up their personal and family time on a holiday,” said County Board Chair Libby Garvey. [Arlington County]
Retail Space for WeWork in Crystal City — The County Board on Saturday voted to convert 440 square feet of the WeWork and WeLive building in Crystal City to ground floor retail space, at the request of WeWork. No word yet on what kind of a retailer may be moving in. [Arlington County]
More on Park Protests — “Our Man in Arlington” columnist Charlie Clark has tackled the dual controversies of the baseball field fence in Bluemont Park (the Board acted on that yesterday, article coming soon) and the proposed Williamsburg Middle School athletic field lights. Clark concluded: “Popular sports for kids, peaceful green parks: competing Arlington virtues.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Evolent Health Stock Soars — As of 10 a.m. the share price for Ballston-based Evolent Health is up more than 12 percent today and nearly 70 percent for the year. The tech firm reported a narrower-than-expected loss and higher-than-expected revenue in the third quarter of 2016. [CNBC, Yahoo]
Board Approves Loan for Apartment Renovations — The Culpepper Garden affordable apartment complex for low-income seniors will receive needed renovations thanks to a $9.9 million loan from Arlington’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund. The County Board unanimously approved the loan yesterday. The renovations are expected to begin in the spring and will require tenants to temporarily move to other units on site while their units are renovated. [Arlington County]
Photo courtesy Ari P.
Arlington won’t be temporarily without an Apple Store, after all.
In an email sent to local customers this afternoon, Apple said its Clarendon store, which has been under renovation since April, will reopen this weekend. A grand reopening is planned for Saturday, Sept. 24 starting at 10 a.m.
“You’ll love what we’ve done with the place,” the iPhone maker said in the email and on the store’s website.
“There’s a lot more to see at your new Apple Store in Arlington,” the email continued. “Stop by on September 24 to take a look at what’s changed and try the latest Apple products, including iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2.”
Some exterior work was still underway outside the store today.
The Apple Store in the Pentagon City mall is scheduled to close for renovations starting this coming Sunday, Sept. 25.
Hat tip to Chaz P.
A new hardware store that’s coming to Courthouse is hoping to open its doors by the end of the summer.
Twins Ace Hardware will be located at the corner of Clarendon Blvd and N. Troy Street, on the ground floor of the 2001 Clarendon Blvd apartment building. At nearly 6,000 square feet, the store will carry “a wide variety of products” while offering “the same outstanding service you’ve enjoyed” at the company’s existing Fairfax store.
“We’re excited to be a part of the neighborhood,” co-owner Jeff Smith said. “[My twin brother] Craig and I have always loved Courthouse, but never found the right site for our store until now. [The building] has great amenities and convenient parking for our customers to load purchases large and small.”
“We’re working on construction and getting our permits and hope to open late summer this year,” Smith added, in response to an inquiry from ARLnow.com.
All 30,000 square feet of retail space in 2001 Clarendon Blvd is now leased, according to a press release. Another of the newer businesses to lease a space there, fitness studio Xtend Barre, has set a June 10 opening date.
Photos by Jackie Friedman
County Board Contenders Debate — The two Democratic contenders for Arlington County Board, incumbent Libby Garvey and challenger Erik Gutshall, debated who would be the most transparent and the best agent of change last night. Gutshall criticized Garvey for the lack of action on new transit options for Columbia Pike and for supporting the creation of a “blue ribbon panel” to study county priorities. [InsideNova, Washington Post]
Residents Concerned About Sex Offender — Some residents in the Bluemont neighborhood and the area around Bon Air Park are concerned about a registered sex offender who recently moved to the area. There have been reports of the man watching children’s soccer games and leaving balloons in the backyard of a family home. Police say they’re investigating. [Fox 5]
Vornado Attracting Millennials With Cool Restaurants — “Vornado has carefully curated its retail in Crystal City and Pentagon City to appeal to creative Millennials, bringing in tenants like DIY design and fabrication space TechShop and hip restaurants like We The Pizza, Sweetgreen and Taylor Gourmet, which just opened Monday. That’s not to mention the Whole Foods anchoring the retail section of Vornado’s The Bartlett, a trendy ‘city within a city’ with nearly 700 residential units.” [Bisnow]
Chinese News Agency Profiles Arlington’s Tech Scene — Xinhua, the state-run news agency that’s said to be the largest and most influential media organization in China, has published a feature story that discusses how Arlington has become a “hot spot for tech startups.” The story notes that in addition to a robust talent pool and the availability of investment capital, “government has also played a vital role in the development of startups in Arlington.” [Xinhua]
Outdoor Lab to Celebrate 50th Anniversary — The Arlington Outdoor Lab, a nonprofit facility that hosts more than 9,000 students annually for outdoor and environmental education, is celebrating its 50th anniversary with an event in Ballston next month. [Arlington Outdoor Lab]
Flickr pool photo by James L.
After nearly two months of renovations, the Pacers Running Store in Clarendon reopened last week.
The store’s interior was totally revamped to offer a “shopping experience” similar to the new Pacers stores in the District, on 14th Street and in Navy Yard. The new space is more open, more organized and features more natural light.
Pacers is located at 3100 Clarendon Blvd, across from the Metro station. The store moved to an ancillary space along N. Highland Street during construction, offering a scaled-down selection of running shoes, apparel, nutrition and accessories.
Even with the renovated space open, Pacers is still adding product displays and making some finishing touches to the store.
Sweetgreen applied for its construction permit on the 12th Street S. side of the building on Feb. 24. Orangetheory applied for a permit on the S. Fern Street side of the building on April 1.
The 12th Street extension between S. Eads and Fern streets is rapidly becoming a powerhouse retail corridor, even though it’s a block from an existing, expanding retail hub: the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall. A Whole Foods and a Commonwealth Joe coffee shop will be opening this summer on 12th Street S., at The Bartlett apartment building.
Hard Times Cafe in Clarendon occupies one of the most iconic restaurant locations in Arlington, directly across from the Clarendon Metro station. After more than 20 years in business at 3028 Wilson Blvd, it appears that the local eatery is preparing to leave.
While Hard Times in Clarendon remains open, its 8,240 square foot space is being offered for lease. A marketing flyer says the “trophy restaurant or retail space” is “available immediately.”
The space consists of three levels, including a basement kitchen and storage area. It’s being marketed by the Maryland-based firm H&R Retail.
So far, Hard Times has not responded to a request for comment emailed to the store.
Hard Times was founded in Old Town Alexandria in 1980 and has a dozen locations around the D.C. area.
One of the most prominently-located retail stores in Arlington is getting a makeover.
Renovations are currently underway at the Pacers Running Store at 3100 Clarendon Blvd, across from the Clarendon Metro station. The interior of the store is being renovated, following a recently-completed exterior renovation.
Pacers is still open and selling shoes and other running gear, but is operating out of a small space next to the store, along N. Highland Street.
The company says the construction is expected to last about two months. When completed, the newly-revamped Pacers will offer a “shopping experience” similar to the new Pacers stores in the District, on 14th Street and in Navy Yard.
The Pink Palm will be moving from Old Dominion Drive in McLean to the Market Common Clarendon shopping center, as soon as mid-to-late spring. The store will be located at 2871 Clarendon Blvd, in the former Knightsbridge Trading Co. space.
The Pink Palm stocks clothes, accessories and gifts for well-heeled customers from brands like Lilly Pulitzer, Barbour, Lifeguard Press and Natty Beau.
Aside from McLean, the company has existing locations in Alexandria, Bethesda, Charlottesville and Richmond. Its employees are known as the Pink Palmettes and its website lists four small, fluffy dogs as “store mascots.”
Photo courtesy Lindsey W.
(Updated at 3:58 p.m.) After four years of business, Executive Menswear at the Crystal City Shops will soon sell its last necktie. The store is at 2117 Crystal Plaza Arc, but not for much longer.
With all inventory reduced to 70 percent off and a sign thanking customers for “several years of business,” the shop is set to close its doors “very soon,” said an employee who preferred not to be identified. “It could be today, maybe tomorrow, but very soon.”
There were still plenty of jackets, sport coats, dress shirts, neckties and footwear on the racks on Thursday when an ARLNow reporter visited the shop.
It’s hardly camping weather, but Lisa Peregory, owner of the new Second Ascent Consignment shop at 2757 Washington Boulevard, says business has been as brisk as the temperatures in the two months since the store opened.
The store specializes in casual clothing, outerwear and footwear for men, women and children, as well as specialized gear for camping, hiking, paddling and climbing, sold on a consignment basis. Customers bringing in clothing receive 45 percent of the sale price when the item sells. For items over $150 the split is 50-50.
Customers can peruse popular brands such as North Face, Patagonia, Columbia, Arc’teryx and REI in the store.
The idea for reselling adventure gear came to Peregory last summer while volunteering for the Turtle Island Preserve girls’ primitive camp in North Carolina. The lifelong Arlington resident decided then to abandon a 34-year career in intellectual property and open the shop.
So far, the adventure in adventure gear is paying off in sales and consignments.
“We’ve been really well received by the neighborhood,” Peregory said. “People come by to see how we’re doing and tell us we’re a wonderful addition to the neighborhood. And some come by with their dogs for a dog treat.”
(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) A new six-story residential building may be coming to Ballston.
The County Board is scheduled to vote Saturday on a proposal by developer Penrose Group to turn a parking lot, used car lot and Exxon gas station into a six-story mixed-use building. County staff is recommending that the Board approve the request.
If approved the new building, located at 670 N. Glebe Road — across from Ballston Common Mall and a few blocks from the Ballston Metro station — will have 173 apartments, 177 parking spaces in an underground garage and two separate retail spaces on the ground floor. The first retail area with 1,799 square feet will be located at the corner of N. Glebe Road and 7th Street N. The second area, which is 2,527 square feet, will be at the corner of N. Carlin Springs Road and N. Glebe Road.
The new mixed-use development — originally dubbed 672 Flats — will also have bike storage, two lobbies, a leasing office, mail room, gym and amenity room on its ground floor. There will be 175 parking spots for residents and two for retail uses. Typically, the county calls for at least eight retail parking spots for mixed-use buildings.
“Staff supports the applicant’s request for modification because of the small amount of retail space and the likelihood of its serving users in the immediate vicinity of the site, and the availability of parking in the Ballston area. The applicant’s proposal implements the ‘High-Medium Residential Mixed-Use’ General Land Use Plan (GLUP) designation in that it provides a transition from the high-density commercial core of Ballston to medium-density residential uses to the west,” county staff said.
Of the 173 apartments, at least seven of them will be committed affordable units (CAFs), according to Penrose Group’s proposal. The building falls under the Bluemont Civic Association.
“The applicant is proposing bonus density in exchange for achieving LEED Silver certification consistent with the County’s Green Building Density Incentive program, and is proposing an affordable housing plan including a cash contribution and seven (7) on-site committed affordable units (CAFs) consistent with Arlington County Zoning Ordinance (ACZO) requirements,” county staff said.
According to county staff, Penrose Group’s proposal for the mixed-use building fits in with the 1980 Ballston Sector Plan and the 1981 West Ballston Land Use Study.
“The proposed site plan implements a successful transition through use of architecture to the existing townhouses abutting the site to the west, including façade design, plantings, and a special paving treatment in the alley,” county staff said.
The County Board voted 4-1 on Saturday to approve the plan, which has been years in the making and will replace an outdated retail plan originally passed in 2001. The new plan moves Arlington from a “retail everywhere” approach — policies designed to put ground floor retail in most commercial buildings, regardless of whether a business could actually survive in a given location — to what’s billed as a flexible but “curated” approach.
Color-coded maps will now define where the county would like certain types of retail businesses to set up shop. The owners of buildings in high foot traffic areas will be encouraged to adopt certain building standards that are conducive to ground floor retailers, from higher ceilings to smaller building lobbies.
“By partnering with our business community and our residents, we’ve developed a plan that takes important steps to improve and strengthen the retail sector in Arlington,” Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement. “We believe the consistent, clear guidance and definitions, as well as flexibility of use, design and timing in the plan will better serve those who live and work here when they shop, dine, get their hair cut and bank on streets throughout the County.”
The plan passed with two notable amendments, both proposed by County Board member John Vihstadt and both addressing concerns of the local business community.
The first further codified that the plan is intended as a guiding principle — to be applied primarily during development approval processes — rather than explicit county rules and regulations. The second added service and repair businesses to the types of businesses encouraged in “red zones” — the parts of Arlington’s business districts with the highest foot traffic. In the draft plan, staff had recommended limiting those zones to shopping, dining and entertainment.
“This plan has come a long, long way,” Vihstadt said after the motions passed by 4-1 and 3-2 respectively. “It was not a good plan when it started out.”
The plan passed with tepid support from the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, which had expressed concern about earlier versions of the plan it deemed “too proscriptive.”
“Explicit addition of a statement that the retail plan is not regulatory is paramount,” Chamber President and CEO Kate Roche told the Board. “Moving forward into implementation, we emphasize the importance of the plan being understood as a guideline… we want to make sure this plan isn’t codifying anything that will prevent Arlington from becoming the great, flexible place that we all want it to be.”
The changes still weren’t enough for Libby Garvey, who was the lone vote against the plan.
“I’m much more conformable with the plan with the changes, but still not comfortable enough to support it,” she said. “Both the people who have to make it work and the people we serve are saying, ‘it’s too proscriptive.'”
The new Arlington County Retail Plan would move away from the county’s current “retail everywhere” policy, which was an attempt to provide more lively street life around Arlington by requiring retail spaces in most new commercial buildings.
While successful by some measures, “retail everywhere” — a policy last updated in 2001 — has hit snags, with the owners of buildings in low-foot-traffic areas struggling to find viable retail tenants.
The new retail plan, which has been seven years in the making, is an attempt to concentrate retail in the highest foot traffic areas of commercial corridors, while encouraging more retail-friendly building designs. The hoped-for end result: more vibrant stretches of retailers and restaurants in Arlington.
“This updated approach will strengthen Arlington’s primary retail nodes; allow long- and short-term market shifts in retail and ground floor use to occur within this retail policy framework; accommodate innovative uses on the ground floor; and increase Arlington’s overall level of economic competitiveness,” according to a staff report.
The plan includes color-coded maps of neighborhoods like Clarendon and Crystal City, with each color corresponding to a different retail approach. In the red areas — those with the highest foot traffic — county planners want to encourage food, entertainment and shopping destinations, while discouraging large building lobbies and service businesses, like dry cleaners.
In other coded areas, there is more flexibility, but still some design guidelines and an action plan for the type of businesses the county would like to see in ground floor spaces.
Critics say the county is “acting like a mall operator” in trying to decide which businesses go where. In “curating what the community wants on the street,” in the words of one business leader who requested anonymity, the county is again taking a proscriptive approach — one that may not reflect the changing market a decade or two down the line.
For instance, high-end service businesses like blow dry bars are growing in popularity and may want to locate in one of the “red zones,” where the county is now specifically saying they shouldn’t exist.
There have also been concerns raised about the wisdom of restricting business lobbies, which ostensibly are needed in order to serve the building’s main purpose — being an attractive place for offices or apartments. Others in the business community have disputed the coding of the plans, though some of those concerns were addressed in a recent update of the plan.
“The refinements to the Retail Plan, which address concerns and comments raised through the public process, have made for a stronger document,” the staff report says. “The retail street maps, while not meeting 100 percent consensus by all stakeholders, provide a balance of the stakeholder positions and existing policies pertaining to ground floor use.”
Additionally, while property owners are still able to request exceptions through the county’s site plan process, some say that process remains too rigid, time-consuming and expensive. An apartment building owner might be reluctant to spend tens of thousands in attorney’s fees and staff time, for instance, on a site plan amendment that could allow a dry cleaner to go where there was formerly a small convenience store.