While Amazon teases drone delivery as the next frontier, the company must deal with issues related to its current delivery infrastructure.
Over the past six years, two contract delivery drivers for Amazon reportedly stole millions of dollars’ worth of goods and re-sold them on the platform, according to a search warrant affidavit from the FBI that was unsealed last month and reviewed by the Associated Press.
While the drivers had been instructed to transport packages from a south Seattle warehouse to a post office to be shipped to consumers (or to pick up returns from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and deliver them to said warehouse), they stole items and sold them to supposed pawn shops—which were actually just fronts for the theft ring.
After the drivers would “sell” their stolen wares to the poser storefronts, the businesses would then transport the goods to Amazon warehouses, where they were stored until they could be sold on the platform.
According to the AP, a Seattle police detective noted that one of the Amazon delivery drivers was responsible for 57 transactions with the pawn shops, in which he made $30,000 in sales between February and July of 2018. The suspicious activity kicked off the investigation which uncovered six years-worth of illicit transactions.
The FBI later discovered that the first driver’s roommate, identified as Abbas Zghair, stole roughly $100,000 worth of electronics and sporting goods—all on their way to consumers or being shipped back to the company—and sold them to to the pawn shops for under $20,000.
Both men were employees of Amazon contractor JW Logistics, which is based in Frisco, Texas.
FBI agent Ariana Kroshinsky stated in her affidavit that the crime group’s ringleader, Aleksandr Pavlovskiy, and his associates, made at least $10 million in sales on the Amazon platform since 2013. The FBI is still awaiting Amazon’s complete records to determine the full amount, according to the AP.
While no charges have yet been filed on any of the parties involved, Amazon decried the theft ring’s actions and condemned fraudulent activity on its marketplace.
“When we learned there was an investigation into two contracted drivers, we cooperated with law enforcement by providing them the information they requested,” the company said in a statement to the media. “Additionally, we strictly prohibit inauthentic or stolen goods from being offered in our store and take action when sellers do not comply.”
In an effort to combat the issues of illicit selling on the platform, Amazon recently implemented two programs meant to guarantee the integrity of products sold on its platform and verify their origins.
The Brand Registry program allows brands and manufacturers to register themselves as the official distributors of their goods, allowing Amazon to crack down on unauthorized sellers who can’t verify where or from whom they’ve purchased the products that they’re attempting to sell.
The company has also invented a proprietary scan-and-track system called Transparency, which allows brands and manufacturers to assign a unique code or label to every item they produce. It can be scanned and tracked so that the brand can see exactly where that product is going. Additionally, consumers can also use Transparency to verify their purchases using the Amazon app. If they buy an item on the site or are shopping elsewhere, they can scan the product’s unique code to make sure it’s from the brand’s legitimate manufacturer.
“Retail arbitrage and diverters are a huge problem,” BuyBox Experts’ Scott Ohsman told Sourcing Journal in July. The consultancy helps brands refine their selling strategies on Amazon, and confront issues like fraud.
“Major brands deal with this constantly: people get a hold of your product in some way, and in some large volume, and they sell it for a profit or below market value. And they’ve always been intricate and savvy about how they’ve done it,” he added.