An Indiana couple pleaded guilty recently to their part in defrauding Amazon of more than $1.2 million in electronic devices by taking advantage of the e-commerce giant’s replacement policy.
The couple pleaded guilty [PDF] last month to charges of mail fraud and money laundering for their part in a scheme that involved purchasing goods from Amazon, asking for free replacements, and then selling those products at higher prices.
The Alleged Scheme
Back in May, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana accused the couple and another man of defrauding Amazon of hundreds of consumer electronics items and selling them on the black market.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the fraud involved taking advantage of Amazon’s replacement policy, which allows — under certain circumstances — for customers to request and receive replacement items if the product they received is damaged or not working.
While Amazon closely monitors customers’ accounts and orders for fraudulent activity related to the policy, the couple was able to skirt that monitoring by creating “hundreds of false online identities.”
Once the couple received the replacement products — which included Samsung smartwatches, Microsoft Surface tablets, GoPro cameras, and other items — they would sell the original and replacement items to a third man for a price significantly lower than they paid for the original electronic device.
This third man would then mark up the cost of the item and sell them to an unnamed New York company, which then sold the products to the public.
In all, the man made $1.2 million by selling the items. Of that money, the couple received $725,000.
According to plea agreements [PDF] submitted by federal prosecutors following the couple’s arrest, each of the defendants faces up to 20 years behind bars. They must also pay restitution to Amazon for the full $1.218 million, though it’s unlikely the company will ever see anywhere near that amount.