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Indian-America ex-Amazon employee jailed for 10 months for fraud, bribery

WASHINGTON: A 28-year-old Indian-origin former employee of Amazon has been sentenced to 10 months' imprisonment for his involvement in an international bribery scheme to steal confidential information and manipulate the Marketplace platform of the e-commerce giant.

Rohit Kadimisetty of California's Northridge, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in September 2021, the department of justice (DoJ) said in a statement.

He is 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.

Amazon Marketplace is an e-commerce platform owned and operated by Amazon that enables third-party sellers to sell new or used products on a fixed-price online marketplace alongside Amazon's regular offerings.

US Attorney Nick Brown on Friday announced that Kadimisetty was sentenced to 10 months in prison. He was also fined $50,000, the DoJ said.

He used his prior status as an Amazon employee and underhanded tactics, including commercial bribes, to steal confidential information and manipulate the Amazon Marketplace, it said.

At the sentencing hearing US District Judge Richard A Jones said, “You do not have a license to steal from Amazon… you were involved in illegal conduct… This could be called modern day organised crime.”

Kadimisetty used his knowledge and contacts from prior employment at Amazon to enrich himself by manipulating listings on Amazon Marketplace, Attorney Brown said.

“He was a critical cog in the bribery wheel: paying contacts in India to reinstate suspended accounts, steal confidential information and attack competitors who got in the way of those funding the bribery scheme,” Brown said.

According to records in the case, since at least 2017, the defendants used bribery and fraud to elevate and benefit certain merchants on the Amazon Marketplace.

Kadimisetty and the other defendants served as so-called consultants to third-party (“3P”) sellers on the Amazon Marketplace.

Those 3P sellers sold a wide range of goods, including household goods, consumer electronics, and dietary supplements on Amazon's multi-billion-dollar electronic commerce platform.

Following his employment at Amazon, and after relocating to the US, Kadimisetty used his inside knowledge to recruit employees in India to misuse their employee privileges and access to internal information, systems, and tools, the DoJ said.

Kadimisetty connected employees in India with other consultants and 3P sellers across the US, it said, adding that he acted as a middleman of sorts, assigning tasks on behalf of 3P sellers and negotiating and arranging bribe payments on behalf of corrupted Amazon insiders.

To hide his criminal conduct, Kadimisetty used deceptive email accounts, encrypted messaging services, and bribes through third parties, the DoJ said.

The illicit services provided by Kadimisetty and the other defendants included: stealing confidential business information about Amazon algorithms; reinstating accounts and products that had been suspended; circumventing inventory fees for Amazon warehouses; falsifying claims for lost inventory; and facilitating attacks on competing sellers and product listings, it said.

In his plea agreement, Kadimisetty admits being responsible for $100,000 in bribes paid to Amazon insiders during his active involvement in the enterprise, it said.

Kadimisetty left the conspiracy in late-2018, after a number of his contacts in India were fired by Amazon due to the misconduct, the DoJ said.

“Kadimisetty used his insider access and expertise for his own benefit and those of his co-conspirators. Not only did his actions break the law, but ultimately consumer confidence was shaken by calling into question fair play. Fortunately, the actions of law enforcement were able to stop this scheme,” said Special Agent in Charge Donald Voiret, FBI Seattle.

Four defendants, Ephraim Rosenberg of Brooklyn; Joseph Nilsen and Kristen Leccese of New York City and Hadis Nuhanovic of Georgia are scheduled for trial in October 2022.

Defendant 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 and the Department of Justice Office of International Affairs.

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