The Department of Justice has announced that it has indicted 6 people on allegations of bribery to various Amazon employees and contractors in order to gain an unfair advantage for third-party sellers.

According to the announcement, Amazon employees took bribes from third-party fraudulent sellers to relist them on the marketplace while suspending accounts of sellers who were in direct competition to the fraudulent sellers.

As the world moves increasingly to online commerce, we must ensure that the marketplace is not corrupted with unfair advantages obtained by bribes and kick?backs. The ultimate victim from this criminal conduct is the buying public who get inferior or even dangerous goods that should have been removed from the marketplace. I commend the investigators and cybersecurity experts who have worked to identify and indict those engaged in these illegal schemes.

– Brian T. Moran, U.S. Attorney

Realizing they could not compete on a level playing field, the subjects turned to bribery and fraud in order to gain the upper hand. What’s equally concerning, not only did they attempt to increase sales of their own products, but sought to damage and discredit their competitors. This indictment should send a message that the FBI will not sit on the sidelines while criminals try to cheat their way to the top.

– Raymond Duda, Special agent in charge, FBI Seattle

The 6 defendants are charged with conspiracy to use a communication facility to commit commercial bribery, conspiracy to access a protected computer without authorization, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and wire fraud. Wire fraud in the US is “punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine,” while the other charges are “punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine,” the DOJ said.

Amazon, on the other hand, said that the company has fired all the employees and assisted the authorities with the investigation.

Amazon has systems in place to detect suspicious behavior by sellers or employees, and teams in place to investigate and stop prohibited activity. We are especially disappointed by the actions of this limited group of now-former employees, and appreciate the collaboration and support from law enforcement to bring them and the bad actors they were entwined with to justice. 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.

– Amazon (via Ars Technica)

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