WASHINGTON: Two American nationals have pleaded guilty in a case of multimillion-dollar scheme to manipulate the Marketplace platform of Amazon in which an Indian-origin former employee of the e-commerce giant was sentenced to 10 months in prison in February.
Amazon Marketplace is an e-commerce platform owned and operated by Seattle-based Amazon that enables third-party sellers to sell new or used products on a fixed-price online marketplace alongside Amazon's regular offerings.
On February 11, Indian-origin Rohit Kadimisetty, 28, of California's Northridge, was sentenced to 10 months in prison and ordered to pay a USD 50,000 fine.
Joseph Nilsen, 32, and Kristen Leccese, 33, both New York residents, pleaded guilty on Monday in US District Court in Seattle to various federal charges, the Department of Justice (DoJ) said.
Nilsen pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit violations of the Travel Act and filing a false tax return while Leccese pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit violations of the Travel Act, according to US Attorney Nick Brown.
In all, three of the six defendants have now pleaded guilty in a multimillion-dollar scheme to manipulate the Amazon Marketplace, the DoJ said.
According to the plea agreements, Nilsen, Leccese and their associates conspired to pay bribes to get Amazon employees and contractors to misuse their access to Amazon networks and confidential information, it said.
They sought to obtain various unfair competitive advantages for certain merchants on the Amazon Marketplace by, among other things, interfering with Amazon's ability to monitor the safety and authenticity of goods sold and impairing the accuracy of information posted on the Marketplace, the DoJ said.
Nilsen and Leccese admit they conspired to pay bribes: to obtain confidential Amazon business information; to get suspended third-party sellers and product listings reinstated on the Marketplace; to circumvent Amazon restrictions and limitations on certain products, it said.
They also admitted to gaining access to restricted product categories by misrepresenting the source of goods; to manipulate customer reviews; and to surveil and attack other merchants and product listings, the DoJ said.
Nilsen also pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return.
Conspiracy to commit violations of the Travel Act is punishable by up to five years in prison. Conspiracy to commit Wire Fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Filing a false tax return is punishable by up to three years in prison.
Kadimisetty was sentenced in February for his involvement in the international bribery scheme to steal confidential information and manipulate the Marketplace platform of the e-commerce giant.
The Indian-American was one of the six consultants indicted in September 2020 for a fraud and bribery scheme targeting the Seattle-headquartered e-commerce giant and its online Marketplace.
Two defendants, Ephraim Rosenberg of Brooklyn, New York, and Hadis Nuhanovic, of Acworth, Georgia, remain scheduled for trial in October 2022.
Another defendant, Indian-origin Nishad Kunju of Hyderabad, has not been arraigned on the indictment.
The case is being investigated by the FBI, with assistance from the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI), and the Department of Justice Office of International Affairs.