Four brothers are facing up to 20 years in jail after being accused of scamming retail and tech giant Amazon for millions of dollars over two years, allegedly openly discussing how they would “f**k Amazon” in family WhatsApp group chats.
The Abraham brothers: Yoel, 28, Heshl, 32, Zishe, 30, and Shmuel, 24, were arrested in New York on Wednesday, accused of fraud that allegedly netted them at least $US19 million ($A26.4 million).
Four brothers allegedly targeted one of the most valuable companies in the world with an overshipping scam.
All four brothers are accused of using wholesale businesses supplying Amazon to conduct “overshipping” scams, including one that was located in their parents’ basement.
“The defendants shipped, invoiced and received payment for goods that [Amazon] had not agreed to purchase, or for prices and quantities to which [it] had not agreed,” the recently unsealed indictment of the brothers reads.
The alleged scam worked by modifying the Amazon Standard Identifier Number (ASIN), a unique number for every product sold on the e-commerce platform.
The brothers allegedly modified the ASIN numbers in Amazon orders to make them look like Amazon were buying a larger quantity of something else, then billed the company for it.
In one instance the group are accused of sending 7000 toothbrushes billed at $US94.03 ($A130.58), when the order was for 12 bottles of a disinfectant spray that cost the same amount.
Another alleged deception involved substituting one bottle of designer perfume with close to a thousand plastic beard trimmers.
Prosecutors allege that on multiple occasions the brothers sent more than 10,000 items to Amazon when the company had requested fewer than 100.
They also discussed their alleged scams and techniques in a WhatsApp group, guiding each other how to pull off the scam and how to react when Amazon started cracking down.
“Looks like [we] will have to build a legit business,” Yoel allegedly wrote to his brothers after Amazon increased its enforcement against overshipping. “Open account under dummy names and they can go look for no one,” Yoel allegedly added.
WhatsApp messages are encrypted but that doesn’t mean they never end up in the hands of authorities.
“I’m so in the mood to f**k Amazon,” Yoel allegedly wrote in another message.
The brothers allegedly (and ultimately unsuccessfully) used virtual private networks to hide their location and the fact they were logging into multiple accounts.
Acting Manhattan US Attorney Audrey Strauss said the alleged scam was a “new twist on an old trick”.
“The use of complex technology did not hide the simple fact that the defendants were bilking Amazon for goods they never provided,” Ms Strauss said.
“The more our economic life moves online, the more we must ensure the integrity of our digital markets, which my Office is committed to doing,” she said.
The brothers have been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering.