Millions of people in California and around the county purchase items from Amazon’s online marketplace each day. Amazon uses a complex algorithm to determine how the marketplace’s millions of stores are sorted and ranked, but not all merchants play by the rules. Hackers and black-hat marketers have been searching for ways to defeat or fool Amazon’s algorithm for years, and they sometimes resort to unconventional approaches when more traditional methods are unsuccessful.
Bribery and fraud
One of these schemes involved six individuals who are accused of bribing Amazon employees to reveal the specifics of the company’s algorithm, share private information about sellers, deface listings posted by their competitors and restore the accounts of users who had been banned. One of these individuals pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and fraud after federal investigators uncovered details of the scheme. On Feb. 11, a U.S. District Court judge sentenced him to spend 10 months in a federal prison followed by supervised release lasting three years. He was also ordered to pay a $50,000 fine.
The online marketplace now accounts for about 60% of Amazon’s online retail business, so the company has good reason to take allegations of fraud and bribery seriously. When questioned about the case by reporters, an Amazon representative said the technology giant had systems in place to detect potentially fraudulent behavior and protect its sellers and customers. One of the man’s alleged co-conspirators has yet to be arraigned. The trial for the other four is scheduled to begin in October.
According to prosecutors, the six individuals spent approximately $100,000 on bribes to obtain a competitive advantage worth more than $100 million. This reveals how lucrative white-collar crimes can be in the information age. The outcome of this case also shows that people who admit to committing crimes like bribery and fraud may receive lenient sentences when they cooperate with the authorities and plead guilty.