“The ultimate victim of this criminal conduct is the buying public, who obtains substandard or even dangerous goods that should have been taken off the market,” US lawyer Brian Moran said in a statement. “As the world shifts more and more to online commerce, we need to ensure that the market is not corrupted by unfair advantages obtained through bribes and bribes. “
Alleged bribe and wire fraud
Federal authorities have charged Ephraim Rosenburg of Brooklyn, New York; Joseph Nilsen and Kristen Leccese from New York; Hadis Nuhanoviv from Acworth, Georgia; Rohit Kadimisetty of Northridge, California; and Nishad Kunju of Hyderabad, India, for conspiracy to commit commercial bribes, conspiracy to gain access to a secure computer, conspiracy to commit electronic fraud and other violations. Kunju from India was involved in the program as an Amazon employee, but then left the retailer and became one of the consultants, prosecutors said.
Federal officials say Amazon employees who were corrupt disclosed information about the earnings of other third-party sellers to consultants or temporarily suspended accounts of some sellers. Employees specifically targeted third-party vendors who were in competition with vendors working with the six consultants, the Justice Department said.
The bribes also helped the six consultants gain access to Amazon Marketplace operating procedures and algorithms, the indictment says. The data, which included insight into how the search engine works and product reviews, gave the Six an unfair competitive advantage when telling third-party sellers how to advertise their products, prosecutors said.
“Realizing that they couldn’t compete on an equal footing, the subjects turned to corruption and fraud to gain the upper hand,” Raymond Duda, an FBI agent in Seattle, said in a statement. “What is also concerning is that not only have they tried to increase sales of their own products, but they have also sought to harm and discredit their competitors. “
In a statement, Amazon said Friday it was “disappointed with the actions of this limited group of former employees” allegedly involved in the scheme. The company has “systems in place to detect suspicious behavior,” the tech company added.
The six defendants face up to five years in prison for commercial bribery and up to 20 years for wire fraud. They will appear in Seattle court on October 15.