A couple from Munice, Indiana have admitted stealing more than $1.2 million from Amazon, using the company’s returns system as well as a network of fake online personalities to defraud the online retailer for years.
The couple, Erin Joseph Finan, 38, and Leah Jeanette Finan, 37, have plead guilty to mail fraud and money laundering in a U.S. District Court in Indianapolis.
According to The Star Press, the Finans purchased hundreds of electronic items like GoPros and smartwatches from Amazon, using hundreds of fake identities. They then reported the items as damaged or missing to Amazon, which would then ship out a replacement. The Finans sold the items through a third party, and turned a healthy profit in the process.
Amazon has a famously generous return or replacement policy, which is designed to make the customer happy while erring on the side of replacing items too often. An automated system monitors customer accounts for an unusually high number of claims, which can then spark an investigation. In this case, the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and Indiana State Police all collaborated to bust the scheme.
People scamming Amazon’s returns system doesn’t seem novel or clever, but the scale of the thefts here is the impressive part. The court ordered the Finans to repay over $1.2 million in damages to Amazon. If they were making their money reselling Xboxes and GoPros — which average around $500 for the more expensive packages — that’s well over 2000 items fraudulently taken from Amazon’s refund system. That’s not just exploiting a loophole.