An e-commerce consultant who allegedly advised a customer to “get creative” with receipts submitted to Amazon to prove vendor relationships has been indicted by a New York grand jury along with the seller – and 39 others.
New York Attorney General Letitia James and New York City Mayor Eric Adams unveiled the indictment Thursday at a press conference announcing that they had shut down “a massive theft operation and retail crime”.
“As stated in the unsealed indictment today, 41 people have been charged for their role in this criminal network which stole clothing and luxury goods and thousands of items from pharmacies which later been resold on eBay.
“During the three-year joint investigation by the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) and the NYPD’s Grand Larceny Division, law enforcement seized more than $3.8 million worth of retail items stolen from the company’s alleged boss, Roni Rubinov, more than 550 stolen gift cards and payment cards, and more than $300,000 in cash.
“The defendants are charged with various counts of corporate bribery, money laundering, criminal possession of stolen property, plan fraud and conspiracy.”
The indictment accused Rubinov of hiring remote web designer and e-commerce consultant Charles Harman, who, under Rubinov’s direction, allegedly did the following:
1) maintained RUBINOV’s Treasure Deals USA eBay store;
2) updated websites created for the criminal enterprise;
3) increased online visibility of RUBINOV thanks to Google metrics;
4) attempted to extend RUBINOV’s sales platform to Amazon and Shopify; and
5) Trained ANA, CAROLINE, LUDI, AKASYA and other employees on how to increase their productivity and increase RUBINOV’s profit margin on eBay and other RUBINOV e-commerce sites.
The indictment alleges the following:
“On September 18, 2019, CHARLES HARMAN had a phone conversation with RONI RUBINOV in which he said, in summary, “Hey, just to let you know I had a good meeting with Ana this morning, we had a screen sharing on Amazon. So she will probably contact you to find out how we list our products, as they all require authorization. Face creams, Starbucks, everyone we’ve tried. So you’re going to have to get creative with how to show a receipt.”
We contacted defendant Harman through what we believe to be his website and LinkedIn profile and received no response.
Online sellers may be familiar with Amazon’s category control practices, including requirements for sellers to provide vendor receipts for certain product types. Here’s a video from Amazon Seller University explaining the process:
eBay has traditionally not had such stringent requirements, according to seller reports. But in recent months, we’ve heard from two sellers who reported that eBay required them to submit receipts for their inventory.
The case is a warning to sellers to know the source of their inventory and keep good records. It also serves as a warning to consultants to ensure that their clients do not engage in criminal activity and to be very, very careful about the advice they offer. Likewise, sellers should be cautious about the advice offered by consultants.