Update April 2022 – The federal indictment included a range of Amazon sellers, former Amazon employees, and Amazon consultants. So far, only one guilty plea has been rendered from ex-Amazon employee Rohit Kadimisetty with the other five defendants awaiting trial.
Amazon legal consultant Ed Rosenberg, continues to be active in the Amazon community. He also continues to manage one of the top Amazon legal firms in America, ASGTG (known as the “Voice of the sane seller”) and vehemently denies the allegations and has been active in addressing matters in this Reddit thread. We spoke to him in April 2022 and he said, “I do not want to get into details, but a stunning & cataclysmal circular firing squad occurred where Open Black Hat (BH) Hackathons shredding Amazon and mocking the very concept of following TOS was ignored, the cure to BH & the go-to address for rule-following sellers & service providers, ASGTG was attacked and even Amazon itself, the victim-blamed. In a cancel-culture era, and in an industry designed for scale, not one person of my 100+k following has corroborated one word as even possible. You can draw your own conclusions.”
Charges were brought earlier this week against several Amazon consultants and sellers—many well known within the Amazon community—for allegedly orchestrating attacks on competitors and bribing Amazon employees, among other things. Overall, their crimes are alleged to have earned sellers over $100 million in damages. You may recognize some of the names of those indicted.
In this article, I'll take a look at what the alleged crimes are, who the defendants are, and what this means for Amazon sellers.
A copy of the indictment is available in the Justice Department website.
Who Were Charged?
The defendants in the indictment include at least a couple of fairly well known personalities in the Amazon community:
- Ephraim Rosenberg (Ed Rosenberg), 45, Brooklyn
- Joseph Nilsen (Joe Nilsen), 31, New York City, NY
- Nishad Kunju, 31 Hyderabad (India)
- Hadis Nuhanovic, 30, Acworth, Georgia
- Kristen Leccese, 32, New York City, NY
- Rohit Kadimisetty, 27, Northridge, California
Ed Rosenberg runs the well known Amazon Law Firm Amazon Sellers Group and the related Facebook Group Amazon Sellers Group. Ed Rosenberg's law firm has, at least previously, been one of the more popular and recommended firms among Amazon sellers.
Joe Nilsen has had a pretty prolific reputation in many Amazon groups on Facebook and Amazon for quite some time now.
The others named in the indictment are people I have never heard of. Nishad Kunju appears to be the main Amazon insider based in India.
Related Podcast Episode: E336: The Latest Amazon-Related Indictments and What It Means for Sellers
What Are the Alleged Crimes?
There are numerous alleged crimes laid out in the indictment. But essentially, the crimes come down to bribing Amazon employees to benefit both a seller's own account and sabotage their competitor's accounts. Along with that, they've been implicated in stealing information from Amazon's servers. A lot of this stems back from the information being leaked from Amazon employees dating back to around 2017 or 2018 that we've covered extensively on EcomCrew.
Here's a quick summary of just some of the alleged crimes:
- Bribing Amazon employees to gain access to information that gave 3P sellers a competitive advantage. Some of the information stolen from Amazon includes the following:
– Internal wikis and Amazon processes
– Third-party seller account information such as internal annotations, performance reports, and pending suspensions
– Competitor third-party information such as identity information, performance history, and disciplinary history
– Contact information of customers who left reviews
– Amazon employee information and organizational charts
– Supplier invoices from competitors
- Entering false information in annotations to get seller accounts unsuspended
- Posting fake reviews through aged accounts and “brushing” along with upvoting reviews.
- Sabotaging competitor listings by posting exceedingly positive reviews
- Bribing Amazon employees to attack competitor listings simply to “settle scores”
- Using bribes and forging invoices to sell into restriction categories on Amazon
- Using bribes to erase Amazon shipping information to claim returns were lost in transit and get reimbursed for them.
How the Crimes Worked
Here's an overview of how some of the crimes took place.
Getting Amazon Accounts Unsuspended
Joe Nilsen allegedly helped Ed Rosenberg's clients get unsuspended for a few thousand dollars by bribing Amazon employees. This type of service has been going on for years and is still being marketed today by third parties.
Here's one of the discovered emails sent by Joe to Ed: “They want 5.5k for any Jeff B Final Word reinstatement and I am being honest with you which I hope you respect I think it is fair to tack on 1k – so the reinstatements would be 6.5k. Regarding timeframe, they aren't going to commit to any times. They work very fast, though.”
Basically how the scheme appeared to work is that a seller would submit a Plan of Action (POA) at a particular time of day so that an Amazon employee who would be working their shift at that time could assign the case to themselves and get the account unsuspended. In this particular case, it appeared to take less than a day to get the account unsuspended.
Based both on the indictment and the fact I've personally seen “rate sheets” for unsuspension services, a typical unsuspension costs in the mid 5 figures. However, one seller apparently had, as per one of the defendants, an account “fucked beyond fuck.” The seller, client-1 paid $200,000 to get the account unsuspended. I personally would love to know who client-1 is.
Sabotaging Competitor Accounts and Getting Accounts Suspended
In one of the alleged crimes, a client offered Nilsen $35,000 to wipe out a competitor's account.
They did it by registering a URL purporting to be a phony law group—GlobeBrandLawGroup—and opening an IP violation with Amazon against the competitor. Amazon promptly suspended the competitor.
In another case, a client refused to pay an Amazon consultant for services so the Amazon consultant asked Joe to deface the client's listings to “send a message.” This apparently was done by uploading a flat file but to Amazon's protected network.
Apparently, after the client paid, Nilsen had the page restored to normal.
Falsifying Lost Shipments to Get Reimbursed for Them
One of the more revealing things claimed to me was that allegedly, some of the defendants had deleted Amazon shipment history for returns to be able to claim the items were lost in transit and get reimbursed for them. This is something I've never heard of happening, but you can imagine that this is essentially as good as printing money.
Falsifying Plans of Action
One of the slightly odd allegations is that the defendants falsified Plans of Actions in order to get their accounts unsuspended. This allegation is slightly odd (and perhaps alarming) since many POAs are written simply to appease Amazon. I suspect many sellers who have had their accounts suspended have been guilty of providing false information in their Plans of Action.
I suspect, however, that the false information provided in the alleged POAs contain more insidious information than, for example, claiming employees will forevermore follow a great new Standard Operating Procedure to ensure Amazon violations don't occur in the future.
Increasing Storage Limits
The indictment also claims the defendants bribed employees to increase storage limits, specifically for hazmat items.
There are probably sellers reading this who would gladly pay for this service right this second, even knowing the possible criminality of it.
Other Things We Learned
The indictment contained a lot of revealing information on the inner workings of Amazon and also the dark underbelly of the Amazon seller community. Here is some other revealing information from the indictment:
- The Amazon leakers are in India, not China.
- The wording of reviews, not necessarily the rating of a review, can be the trigger for a product suspension (think trigger words like “unsafe,” “injury,” etc.)
- “Brand gating” is/was a service you can pay for through Amazon leakers.
What Does This Mean for Amazon Sellers?
The big question after this indictment is “What does this all mean for Amazon sellers?”
At first glance, one might think this will make Amazon sellers think twice before using illicit services like those mentioned in the indictment. However, the indictment is against five Americans and one Indian. We know that over 60% of Amazon sellers are based in China and they will be much more difficult to prosecute in America. So for Chinese sellers looking to use illicit services for their betterment, this indictment probably doesn't do much.
The other worrisome thing is that many sellers have, at some point, used some of the services mentioned in the indictment. For example, purchasing Account Annotations has become a relatively standard practice recently simply to monitor the health of an account.
Some absolute white hat sellers purchase these services simply as a proactive tactic to avoid arbitrary account suspensions. Could these sellers be at risk of being charged? Even if the answer is no, this is clearly a slippery slope built on the side of the Amazon mountain that is sometimes unjust and unfair to Amazon sellers.
There's a good chance though that this indictment may be used to bring to the surface the names of a lot of other guilty Amazon sellers, consultants, and lawyers from the defendants. Many people reading this article could probably name a handful of names of sellers/consultants/lawyers who have been guilty of similar crimes spelled out in this indictment.