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Amazon Bribery Plea: One Count, Possibility of No Jail Time

Amazon Bribery Plea: One Count, Possibility of No Jail Time

The sentencing recommendation found in today’s plea agreement in the notorious Amazon bribery conspiracy may bring some measure of vindication to a prominent consultant who was indicted with 5 others in the fall of 2020. The defendant pleaded guilty and admitted to committing bribery today, but it’s possible he’ll serve home detention rather than a prison term.

Today, Ed Rosenberg pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy, admitting he bribed Amazon employees and agreeing to a recommended sentence that imposes home detention but no jail time (though it will be up to a Federal Judge to accept or reject the proposed sentence). The defendant also agreed to pay a hefty fine.

The government allegations against the 6 defendants were damning, with one defendant sentenced last year to 10 months in prison and another sentenced last month to 20 months in prison. The difference in Defendant Ed Rosenberg’s sentencing recommendation is surprising given the fact the government had placed his name first on its 2020 charging document against the six defendants.

Section 11 of Rosenberg’s plea agreement titled, “Joint Recommendation Regarding Sentencing. Pursuant to Federal Rule 4 of Criminal Procedure 11 ( c )(1 )(B)” reads as follows:

“The United States and Defendant jointly agree that the appropriate sentence to be imposed is a term of probation of two (2) years, including a special term of probation of twelve months of home detention with electronic monitoring.

“The parties further jointly agree that the appropriate fine to be imposed by the Court at the time of sentencing is an amount of one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000), less any amounts paid in restitution and any sum of money forfeited, if any, as set forth in paragraph 12 or paragraph 13, below.”

It’s not clear if the Court set a sentencing date (the US Attorney did not issue a press release about the plea as of Thursday afternoon).

While the US Attorney and the defendant agreed to the recommended sentence, the Judge can use his own discretion. For the offense of Conspiracy to Commit Violation of the Travel Act, there is a maximum term of imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine of up to $250,000, among other consequences.

In sentencing one defendant last month, Judge Richard A. Jones (who is the half-brother of Quincy Jones) had said there needed to be significant consequences to commercial bribery. “I cannot find any other reason for your conduct than greed… Enough was not enough,” Judge Jones said.

In sentencing a former Amazon employee in the case last year, Judge Jones said the illegal conduct “could be called modern day organized crime.”

As a consultant, Rosenberg had helped sellers regain their accounts, but he also created a large community called the Amazon Sellers Group (ASGTG.com), where some members were shocked to learn of the plea in EcommerceBytes on Saturday while many continued to offer their support.

In his plea, Rosenberg admitted to a statement of facts, which included the following example (which is a small excerpt):

“For example, Defendant conspired to pay, and did directly pay, bribes to an Amazon employee based in Amazon’s Seattle, Washington headquarters, referred to as “Employee-A.” Employee-A was a member of the “Product Review Abuse team” responsible for investigating “all reports of product review abuse and/or manipulation across all marketplaces.” Between about April 2018 and December 2018, Defendant, using a Pay Pal account under a fake name, made 33 payments directly to Employee-A, 11 totaling $18,650, in exchange for misappropriated and confidential information about various Amazon 3P accounts that Employee-A accessed through her position at Amazon.

“Defendant also made payments to persons other than Employee A, through others, in exchange for Amazon’s misappropriated and confidential information, including information about various Amazon 3P accounts. Such information included notes and details about particular seller accounts, the status of suspended seller accounts, and Amazon’s enforcement actions with respect to those sellers.”

An attachment to the plea agreement lists the devices seized by the government in its investigation into the charges, including an HP desktop, an HP laptop, and two Dell laptops.

Codefendants in the case Joseph Nilsen and Kristen Leccese pleaded guilty and are scheduled for sentencing on June 9, 2023. Defendant Nilsen pleaded guilty to three counts (Conspiracy to Commit Violations of the Travel Act; Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud; and Filing False Tax Return). Defendant Leccese pleaded guilty to one count (Conspiracy to Commit Violation of the Travel Act). Both Nilsen and Leccese admitted in statements of facts to “surveilling and attacking third-party merchants and product listings,” an admission Defendant Rosenberg did not make in today’s plea agreement.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.