Two plead guilty in scheme to manipulate Amazon Marketplace

Amazon office, San Francisco, August 2019.

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SEATTLE (AP) — Two other defendants have pleaded guilty to their role in a multimillion-dollar scheme to manipulate the Amazon Marketplace e-commerce platform.

Six people have been charged in the conspiracy, which federal prosecutors say involved paying bribes to trick Amazon employees and contractors into disclosing confidential data and using that data to grant certain sellers a competitive advantage on Amazon Marketplace.

Joseph Nilsen, 32, and Kristen Leccese, 33, both of New York, filed their pleas Monday in US District Court in Seattle, admitting to paying more than $100,000 in bribes from 2016 to 2020.

Another player, Rohit Kadimisetty, was sentenced in February to 10 months in prison and fined $50,000.

Two other defendants – Ephraim Rosenberg, of New York, and Hadis Nuhanovic, of Acworth, Georgia – are due for trial in October. The sixth defendant, Nishad Kunju, from Hyderabad, India, was not brought to the United States to face charges.

In their plea agreements, Nilsen and Leccese admitted to conspiring to pay bribes to obtain confidential business information from Amazon; to cause suspended third-party sellers and product listings to be reinstated on the Marketplace; to circumvent Amazon restrictions on certain products; and manipulating customer reviews, among other things.

Nilsen and Leccese are due to be sentenced in US District Court in Seattle on September 9. Nilsen pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison; conspiracy to violate the Travel Act, which prohibits interstate or foreign travel for racketeering purposes and is punishable by up to five years; and tax charges of up to three years.

Leccese pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate travel law.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle agreed to recommend prison sentences within the guidelines for each.

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