A Grand Jury in the Western District of Washington on Friday indicted six individuals for participating in a scheme that involved paying bribes to Amazon employees to gain an unfair competitive advantage worth more than $100 million on Amazon Marketplace.
The individuals accused in the Department of Justice's (DoJ) indictment [pdf] are: Rohit Kadimisetty, 27, of Northridge, California; Kristen Leccese, 32, and Joseph Nilsen, 31, of New York, New York; Ephraim Rosenberg, 45, of Brooklyn, New York; Nishad Kunju, 31, of Hyderabad, India; and Hadis Nuhanovic, 30, of Acworth, Georgia.
They have been charged with conspiring to use a communication facility to commit commercial bribery, conspiring to gain unauthorised access to a protected computer and committing wire fraud.
In a statement, the Department of Justice (DoJ) said that the conspiracy has been going on since at least 2017. The defendants served as consultants for the third-party (3P) sellers, and some also operated their own merchant accounts on Amazon's third-party ecommerce site.
The accused are alleged to have paid bribes to at least 10 different Amazon employees and contractors, in exchange for reinstating accounts and products that had been blocked or suspended by Amazon from doing business on its platform.
Among such accounts were third-party sellers of dietary supplements, household electronics and consumer goods that were blocked over customer-safety and counterfeiting issues.
The defendants are also accused of bribing Amazon employees to provide them with unauthorised access to information about Amazon's internal algorithms, search engine, product review rankings, and valuable information on third-party sellers' competitors. In some cases, Amazon employees also offered defendants and their clients access to benefits, such as selling goods in restricted categories, which violated Amazon's rules, prosecutors say.
One suspect, who also accepted bribes while working as a seller-support associate at Amazon, later became an outside consultant and paid bribes to his former colleagues in the company.
The scheme resulted in over $100 million of competitive benefits to hundreds of third-party seller accounts, causing harm to competitors as well as consumers, according to the indictment.
In a statement, Amazon said that it supported the lengthy investigation and was grateful to have worked with the US Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington and other government agencies in their thorough pursuit of the case.
"We work hard to build a great experience for our customers and sellers, and bad actors like those in this case detract from the flourishing community of honest entrepreneurs that make up the vast majority of our sellers," the company said.
"There is no place for fraud at Amazon, and we will continue to pursue all measures to protect our store and hold bad actors accountable," it added.
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