The government’s bribery case against Amazon consultants was dramatic enough, with allegations of a suitcase full of cash, sabotaged Amazon pages, and other crimes involving 6 indicted defendants. But things got even more startling this weekend as the 4th and 5th defendants prepare to go before a federal judge for sentencing on Friday, September 8th.
Joseph Nilsen filed his sentencing memorandum on Saturday, recounting to the Court how he and codefendant Kristen Leccese were drawn into the scheme by a mysterious “Mr. K.” His lawyers explained in a footnote, “Because there are sensitivities surrounding the identity of this individual, he is referred throughout to “K.””
Nilsen began selling books on Amazon in 2014 and said he then “found a job working for an attorney, Cory Rosenbaum, who purported to assist suspended Amazon sellers recover their accounts.” Ten months later, he “quit to pursue an opportunity to work with one of Mr. Rosenbaum’s friend, former fraternity brother, and client, Mr. K., and Mr. K.’s large online selling company.”
Nilsen said “there were whispers around the warehouse of (Mr. K’s) connections to organized crime” and claimed Mr. K told him he had wiretapped the attorney’s home. “As proof, Mr. K. patched in a live feed from what appeared to be Mr. Rosenbaum’s home, where Mr. Nilsen overheard personal communications between Mr. Rosenbaum and his wife.”
Nilsen said he and Leccese broke ties with Mr. K in 2019 but remained so afraid of him that, “When FBI agents, with guns drawn, forced open Mr. Nilsen’s door at 6 a.m. only a few months later, Mr. Nilsen was relieved that it was law enforcement, rather than Mr. K. and his associates.”
While he obscured the identity of Mr. K in his sentencing memorandum, Nilsen did identify a former client (EcommerceBytes redacted the names involved as we have not confirmed Nilsen’s allegations described in the following footnote):
“While in no way justifying his behavior, Mr. Nilsen refused to engage in unprovoked sabotage of a 3P seller account. For example, in November 2019, Mr. Nilsen’s client, (redacted), asked Mr. Nilsen to attack (redacted), a small third-party seller of hemp oil. Mr. Nilsen understood the reason for the attack to be purely economic – to shut down Mr. (redacted)’s leading competitor so that Mr. (redacted) could assume more of the market – and Mr. Nilsen refused and cut ties with Mr. (redacted). In fact, Mr. Nilsen went as far as to warn the owner of (redacted) about the impending attack so that the owner could alert Amazon and secure preemptive protection, which Mr. Nilsen believes the owner did.”
Nilsen also had words for his alleged co-conspirators: “Unlike at least one of his codefendants, Ed Rosenberg, who throughout the case publicly derided the prosecution and Amazon, Mr. Nilsen quietly did the right thing.” Rosenberg was sentenced on July 14, 2023, to two years of probation, including a year of home confinement, and a $100,000 fine.
In the government’s sentencing memo for Nilsen filed on September 1st, it stated: “The defendant Joseph Nilsen was a consultant to sellers on the Amazon Marketplace and played a central role in the charged conspiracy to commit bribery for illegal benefits on the Amazon Marketplace. Nilsen coordinated among his codefendants, making it possible for numerous third-party sellers to access the illegal services provided by the Amazon insiders. Among all of the codefendants, Nilsen engaged in the broadest range of illegal activities on the Amazon Marketplace, which included negative attacks on competing sellers.”
Nilsen disputes he played a unique role in bringing the codefendants together, “Nor was Mr. Nilsen the connecting glue for his co-defendants.”
Nilsen pleaded guilty in May of last year to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit violations of the Travel Act, and filing a false tax return. Codefendant Leccese pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit violations of the Travel Act. The pair, who are in their 30s, hope to be married in 2024, depending on the outcome of Friday’s sentencings.
Interestingly, both of the Assistant US Attorneys who initially prosecuted the case on behalf of the government have left their positions for jobs at Microsoft.