An unaffiliated Amazon consultant pleaded guilty to handing out more than $100,000 in commercial bribes since 2017. Ephraim “Ed” Rosenberg was charged alongside five others for paying bribes to Amazon employees in India who in return, would provide some Amazon merchants with a heightened advantage for selling goods on the platform.
Rosenberg made his plea on Thursday, admitting that he had bribed company employees, and apologized for the crime in a LinkedIn post on Monday. “On some occasions, I paid bribes, directly and indirectly, to Amazon employees,” he said, adding, “These actions were against the law.”
Speaking about his guilty plea, Rosenberg continued, “I should not have engaged in any of this conduct. I am sorry to have done these things. I very much regret doing them. I will be pleading guilty in federal court to a crime for this misconduct. I promise that I will not do this again. I strongly encourage all sellers and seller consultants to follow my lead on this.”
The apology was the first time Rosenberg has disavowed his earlier claims of innocence when he called the case a “conspiracy” and maintained he was being framed. Rosenberg had denied the allegations as recently as last month, but in complete opposition to his earlier claims, he said his newest statement is “accurate and truthful,” and said he “will continue to stand by it.”
Prosecutors believe the scam began as early as 2017 and according to the indictment, he and the five others charged had “intended to cause harm” to not only Amazon but to third-party vendors and consumers. The indictment said “by depriving Amazon of the exclusive use and confidentiality of its internal business information, interfering with Amazon’s ability to ensure the safety and authenticity of goods sold on the Amazon Marketplace, and impairing consumers’ access to accurate, reliable information about merchants and produced on the Amazon Marketplace.”
An Amazon spokesperson said in an email to Gizmodo that Rosenberg was never employed by the company, and when they detected suspicious behavior in 2018, the company immediately reported it to the FBI.
According to the filed indictment, Amazon merchants could hire a company insider to remove negative customer reviews and an additional $5,000 would secure them a “takedown,” meaning the insider would purchase a competitor’s product and leave a negative review that would trigger the product’s suspension on Marketplace. Of the six individuals charged, four have pleaded guilty, including one former Amazon employee who was sentenced last year to 10 months in prison, according to CNBC. The outlet also says Amazon fired four employees in India who were allegedly connected to the bribery scheme back in 2018.
Rosenberg will be sentenced at a later date and faces a fine of up to $250,000 and a maximum of 25 years in prison.
The Amazon spokesperson told Gizmodo, “Amazon is grateful to have worked with federal authorities in their thorough pursuit of this case and we appreciate the partnership with law enforcement to bring these bad actors to justice.” They added, “There is no place for fraud at Amazon, and we will continue to hold bad actors accountable.”