- Two Seattle-area Amazon logistics contractors were allegedly involved in an operation that was stealing goods intended for Amazon warehouses or customers and selling them to pawn shops, according to an FBI affidavit viewed by the Associated Press.
- The FBI raided two pawn shops in the Seattle area, which were reportedly buying these stolen goods and selling them on Amazon. A worker at one of the shops told the AP the shop was a legitimate establishment. But the shop only bought goods and did not appear to sell any goods from the store, instead it shipped items sold on Amazon through networks that included Amazon's own fulfillment centers, the AP reported.
- The Amazon seller accounts associated with the two shops sold approximately $10 million in goods on Amazon.com in the last six years. The two contractors worked for JW Logistics based in Frisco, Texas.
Selling stolen goods is indeed a violation of Amazon’s seller policies. But identifying stolen goods is more difficult than sniffing out counterfeits, another pervasive problem on Amazon.com and many third-party online marketplaces.
To identify counterfeits, Amazon is harnessing machine learning tools to scan authentication codes and branding marks for inconsistencies and fabrications. Stolen items, however, would likely pass these tests.
On Amazon’s seller forums, sellers decry unrealistically low prices as the mark of stolen goods — which harm their business since they cannot compete on price and still make a profit. In recent years, low-priced stolen Go Pro cameras caused a pricing cascade that affected the company's entire pricing strategy, according to Mobile Geeks.
Though pricing abnormalities may be one way to flag suspicious items online, even the Go Pro situation was reportedly resolved in the physical world — buying cameras from the thieves, tracking serial numbers and staking out warehouses.
This Seattle e-commerce crime was likewise tracked "irl." One of the Amazon contract drivers was detected when the number of sales to the pawnshops seemed remarkable to a police detective. The man’s sales totaled $30,000 across 57 transactions. The second man reportedly stole $100,000 in electronics and sporting goods from his routes and sold them at the shop for less than $20,000.
Amazon did not respond to inquiries regarding the company’s work to detect stolen goods.
Amazon provided the following statement to the AP:
"When we learned there was an investigation into two contracted drivers, we cooperated with law enforcement by providing them the information they requested. Additionally, we strictly prohibit inauthentic or stolen goods from being offered in our store and take action when sellers do not comply," the statement said.