Amazon workers stole nearly $10M from company to buy real estate, luxury cars, feds say

Paul Sancya/AP

Two Amazon workers went on a spending spree, buying real estate, diamond jewelry and several luxury cars, after stealing $9.4 million from the company in a matter of months, federal prosecutors say.

A former Amazon operations manager led the scheme — causing millions to flow into her and co-conspirators’ bank accounts — and a loss prevention worker took part in it, according to prosecutors. Both worked at an Amazon warehouse in Smyrna, Georgia, a small city 15 miles northwest of Atlanta.

Now they must give up their purchases, including a home in Smyrna, a Lamborghini, a Porsche, a Rolex and more, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia.

The former manager, 31, from Atlanta, and the former loss prevention employee, 35, of Smyrna, have pleaded guilty to defrauding Amazon.com, Inc., the attorney’s office announced in a Dec. 1 news release.

“This staggering fraud was fueled by pure greed, as evidenced by the high-end real estate, luxury cars, and expensive jewelry that the defendants quickly accumulated,” U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan said in a statement.

Nicholas Lotito, an Atlanta criminal defense attorney representing the ex-manager, told McClatchy News on Dec. 2 that the case is “unusual” and his client, a single mother, is cooperating with the government in returning the money that was taken from Amazon.

“Oddly enough, this is not something she engaged in for personal benefit,” Lotito said and explained that more information will emerge.

“To me, it’s a sad case because she is a young and talented woman,” Lotito added. “I’m sorry she’s involved.”

McClatchy News contacted an attorney representing the other defendant for comment on Dec. 2 and didn’t immediately hear back.

An Amazon spokesperson, Maria Boschetti, referred questions to the U.S. Attorney’s Office given the pending status of the case.

The scheme

The single mother and former operations manager of Amazon’s Smyrna warehouse was in charge of approving new vendors for Amazon, as well as ensuring vendor invoices were paid, prosecutors say. She worked at the warehouse from August 2020 until March 2022.

The scheme involved her creating fake vendors and submitting “more than $10 million in fictitious invoices for those vendors, causing Amazon to transfer approximately $9.4 million to bank accounts controlled by her and her co-conspirators,” court documents state.

Amazon employees who worked under her, and were unaware of the scheme, were directed to enter the information for fake vendors into Amazon’s vendor system, prosecutors said.

Then the woman, the loss prevention worker and other co-conspirators would send in the fake invoices for payment, according to prosecutors. The manager is accused of recruiting others to take part in her plan.

“These invoices falsely represented that the fake vendors had provided goods and services to Amazon,” the release said.

With the stolen money, the former manager bought a home in Smyrna that cost more than $900,000, a Lamborghini, a Dodge Durango, a Tesla Model X, a Porsche Panamera, and a motorcycle, according to the release.

She will forfeit the purchases, as well as more than $2.7 million, as part of her sentence, prosecutors said.

The former loss prevention worker will forfeit a motorcycle, a Mustang, a Rolex, a diamond necklace, a diamond bracelet and more that he bought with the stolen money, according to prosecutors. He will also forfeit more than $600,000.

Both “attempted to hide their scheme in plain sight by using their unique roles within their company to conceal the actions from which they fraudulently benefitted,” U.S. Secret Service Atlanta Special Agent in Charge Steven Baisel said in a statement.

A woman who was in a relationship with the warehouse manager was also charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with the case, according to the release.

Her attorney declined a request for comment from McClatchy News.

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