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An Indian American former employee of Amazon, Rohit Kadimisetty, was charged with a fraud and bribery scheme last September by the US Department of Justice (DOJ).
On Friday, February 11, the DoJ has sentenced Kadimisetty to a 10-month jail term and fined $50,000 for his involvement in the international fraud scheme.
Originally from Hyderabad, Kadimisetty worked at Amazon as a seller support associate. According to a DOJ release, it said that the defendants—five others have also been charged—used bribes and fraud to elevate and benefit some merchants on the Amazon marketplace since at least 2017.
The report comes at a time when the American e-commerce giant is already facing scrutiny and court cases in several countries, including India, for allegedly misusing its dominant position and indulging in unfair trade practices.
Kadimisetty used his knowledge and contacts from prior employment at Amazon to enrich himself by manipulating listings on Amazon Marketplace, according to a US attorney.
He paid contacts in India to reinstate suspended accounts, stole confidential information, and attacked competitors who got in the way of those funding the bribery scheme.
After relocating to the US following his employment at Amazon, Kadimisetty used his inside knowledge to recruit employees in India. He misused their employee privileges to access internal information, systems, and tools.
Kadimisetty acted as a middleman of sorts, assigning tasks on behalf of third-party sellers and negotiating bribe payments on behalf of corrupted Amazon insiders. To hide his criminal conduct, he used deceptive email accounts, and encrypted messaging services.
In his plea agreement, Kadimisetty revealed he paid $100,000 in bribes to Amazon insiders. In late 2018, he left the conspiracy after many of his contacts in India were fired by Amazon over the misconduct.
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 organized 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.
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 USD 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.