Former Amazon employee arrested on alleged wire fraud charges for false product refunds

Alleged scheme involved the use of a "Spoofer" account which had access to seller info

Amazon announced Monday that one of its former employees, Vu Anh Nguyen, was reported to the FBI in July 2020 for "falsely issuing refunds for products ordered on Amazon.com to himself and his associates."

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According to the online retailer, the U.S. Department of Justice brought charges against Nguyen on Friday for federal wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

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The criminal complaint notes that Nguyen worked as a Selling Support Associate based in Tempe, Az. in which he provided support to Amazon's third-party sellers and assisted in the creation of seller listings using a "Spoofer" account, which allows Amazon employees to view and edit third-party seller accounts and manually authorize refunds.

The filing states the alleged wire fraud occurred between November 2019 and February 2020 in which Nguyen used his employee access to falsely and fraudulently issue $96,508.13 in refunds to himself and others. The refunds were not requested by legitimate purchasers and the transactions involved the use of interstate wires.

The scheme involved approximately 318 unauthorized refunds for orders purchased through eight Amazon accounts belonging to Nguyen and others. These included refunds for high-value items, like computers and electronics, none of which were ever returned to Amazon. Nguyen also operated two third-party seller accounts, Bullsy and ItemsQuest, where refunds were issued to orders he was shipping to various locations including his own home.

In addition, the complaint alleges Nguyen also ordered $222.04 worth of items sent to his home as a part of the scheme, then fraudulently authorized a concession refund for the items, allowing him to keep the items without paying.

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Nguyen is also charged with identity fraud for allegedly using credit card information belonging to a third-party for an order totaling $47.80 for household items including drawer organizers and cabinet liners.

An unidentified woman told FBI investigators she allegedly discovered Nguyen had opened numerous accounts in her name at multiple financial institutions without her knowledge or permission, accessed her bank accounts, and incurred losses and debt in her name.

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Amazon said it launched a thorough investigation after its systems identified the suspicious refunds. Nguyen's employment was terminated after he repeatedly ignored numerous attempts by Amazon to contact and interview him regarding the suspicious activity.

"We thank the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation for their swift work to hold this fraudster accountable, an Amazon spokesperson said in a prepared statement. "There is no place for misconduct or fraud at Amazon. We hold our employees to a high bar, have systems in place to proactively prevent fraud, continue to monitor activity, and will pursue all measures to protect our store and hold bad actors accountable."

The e-commerce giant noted it regularly pursues investigations and lawsuits to put an end to fraud on its platform, including supporting wire fraud charges against four individuals who committed $19 million in a fraudulent invoicing scheme targeting Amazon's vendor system. The company also said it launched a counterfeit crimes unit to tackle the growing problem with counterfeit products sold on its marketplace, and helped stop multiple fraudulent affiliate marketing schemes.

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The announcement comes after six people were indicted on charges last month for collectively paying Amazon.com employees $100,000 in bribes in exchange for restoring their banned products or services on the company's website.

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Separate from the Amazon fraud case, Nguyen was the target of a federal investigation involving a type of securities fraud known as "free-riding," which resulted in losses of approximately $695,000 across eight brokerage firms, the complaint notes. The Securities and Exchange Commission, however, said in its own release that the fraud committed may have actually caused a total of $1 million in losses.

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