Tempted to take advantage of Amazon’s return policy to score some free electronics? Doing so could land you in prison for a long time.
Take it from one Indiana couple, who defrauded Amazon out of $1.2 million in consumer electronics between 2014 and 2016. The duo—Erin and Leah Finan, both 38—repeatedly claimed that the electronics they ordered on Amazon were damaged or broken and requested free replacements. For two years, the scheme worked. They managed to steal more than 2,700 pricey gadgets—everything from GoPro action cameras and Microsoft Xbox consoles to Samsung smartwatches, Apple MacBooks, and Microsoft Surface tablets.
And now, Erin and Leah Finans will be spending the next couple of years behind bars. They pleaded guilty to federal mail fraud and money laundering charges and were sentenced to 71 months and 68 months in prison, respectively, according to the US Department of Justice.
“For the Finans, fraud had become a way of life,” the Justice Department wrote in a news release. “Their Amazon scheme was their ‘job.’ It involved placing thousands of Amazon orders, creating hundreds of false identities, retrieving their stolen goods from retail shipping stores all over Indiana.”
A third individual involved in the scheme, Danijel Glumac, 29, of Indianapolis, pleaded guilty to money laundering and fencing, or knowingly buying and reselling stolen goods. The Finans would, “on a near-daily basis,” sell the stolen items to Glumac, who would mark up their prices and ship them off to a buyer in New York who would sell them, ironically, on Amazon.
The Finans netted around $750,000 over the course of two years while Glumac made nearly $500,000. Now, they will have to pay restitution of more than $1.2 million.
“Consumer fraud not only unjustly enriches the perpetrator, it causes all of us to pay higher retail prices,” US Attorney Josh J. Minkler said in a statement. “To those who seek to exploit the convenience of online shopping through fraud, remember this case. You will be caught. You will be prosecuted. And you will go to federal prison for a long time.”