[IRS] La Valle Resident Sentenced to 5 Years of Probation for Amazon Fraudulent Return Scheme

[mod edit – press release added]

La Valle Resident Sentenced to 5 Years of Probation for Amazon Fraudulent Return Scheme

And this folks is why the thieves don’t worry about scamming Amazon. No mention if it was actually Amazon or FBM sales…

“During the course of this scheme, Wink engaged in more than 3,485 fraudulent transactions causing losses to Amazon of approximately $372,359, authorities said.”

The bigger issue I see here is this guy did this over 3000 times over the course of years. Given that the guy was supposedly mentally ill, I don’t think he was masterminding a scheme with hundreds of unlinked accounts to pull this off.

So the question here is how the hell was Amazon allowing this to occur? Where’s their AI to block problematic buyers? Stopping fraud by prosecuting is rarely an effective strategy, for every person that’s prosecuted there’s 1000 that won’t be. It has to be prevented at the source.

I can see giving a buyer the benefit of the doubt for 10 - 20 fraud returns, but 3000??


No kidding. Shows how little they look at return rates (at least in 2021) and weed out bad buyers. Not surprising at all.

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“The charges against Wink were a result of an investigation conducted by IRS Criminal Investigation with the assistance of Amazon.”

Meanwhile… the rest of us would be imprisoned for at least 10-20 years and have a ridiculous amount of fines if we tried to commit wire and tax fraud. And only tax fraud for 2020? Looks like this person got a sweetheart deal.

I wonder if the anti-Amazon sentiment going across the country had any impact on the very lenient sentence.

I doubt that is the cause of the slap on the wrist. This was in WI but no different than a certain portion of the system turning a blind eye to criminals and the harm they do to society.

[mod edit: prohibited content removed]

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Well the article does say he basically used an insanity plea, and the fact he checked into a mental hospital was part of the leniency.

  1. Please provide links to the many studies showing how incarcerating (rather than treating) the mentally ill and addicted helps to prevent recidivism?

  2. Making commentary about the impact of Democratic presidents nominating federal judges (with no sense of irony) gave me my unintentional laugh of the day. Thank you!

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Just stepping in with a mod reminder: NO POLITICS and also no bashing of people with mental illnesses or disabilities.

The man is now a convicted felon and on probation while he continues to receive needed treatment that evidently can’t be provided effectively through the (overwhelmed) penal system. Many (if not most) first offense white-collar offenders escape jail time. Most likely, both the IRS and Amazon supported this sentence.

What is actually more interesting and the actual point of interest to Sellers is that he committed and was convicted of friendly fraud, specifically return fraud. It shows that Amazon and the IRS take this crime seriously and are prosecuting bad actors. It is likely that many more investigations are ongoing, but unlikely that other criminals (a) stop on their own prior to discovery or (b) have sufficiently actionable mitigating circumstances that would result in any sentencing leniency.

SAS staff are watching this topic closely and will close without warning if needed.

ETA: Recategorized, edited title to follow SAS News for Ecomm Sellers template, added friendly-fraud tag, added AG press release to OP.


This question can be asked across the board.

We have provided hard evidence to Amazon, even through SAS and escalated of clear violations to policy and health and safety laws and Amazon has done nothing about.

I have another call about this with my SAS manager’s boss on Monday because I refuse to let it go.

These scams that go on (your initial post) are just part of doing business for Amazon. Stuff happens. They can’t catch everyone due to the scale of the operation. It’s like any enforcement anywhere.

You only hear about cases like this when they get picked up. Amazon never provides detail on those they stop before it happens or shortly thereafter. What you hear from Amazon on these is numbers - “We stopped XXXXXX number of this or that in the last quarter / year”.

I believe those numbers to be accurate or somewhat accurate. We all see / saw the posts on the NSFE / OSFE with clear criminals crying to us about how and why they got shut down.

With all of that said, enforcement seems to be down not up based on what I am seeing in my world and that’s a little sad and very scary.

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I suspect that much of the “Amazon suspended my Buyer account” is related to Amazon stepping in to prevent more maybe-fraud. And in other non-Seller spaces, you see a lot more of this.

I’ll bet Amazon has more sophisticated stop gaps in place–at least for Sold By Amazon–now, than in 2020.

Hopefully, Amazon was smart enough to demand all the details on how he did it, his resources, tactics, etc, as part of the guilty plea/sentencing and then use that info to automate more systems for this type of fraud.


Sure isn’t helping out 3P sellers who are FBA. That’s for sure.

Yeah, Amazon is more of a “leaders eat first and maybe only leaders eat” kind of operation. :expressionless:


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Except… were the loses really absorbed by Amazon? Or were they passed on to hundreds of 3PS, absolving Amazon of the loss and screwing over - not a trillion dollar company, but people who do sell on Amazon as a job?

These kind of statement in these kinds of articles really bother me because they downplay the severity of these crimes and make it seem like they were just ripping off Amazon, who can afford it. People actually get hurt from things like this.


Neither the official press release nor the articles resulting have clarified whether the purchased/returned items were Sold by Amazon, sold by 3Ps, or both.

ETA: Nor could I find anything on whether he is paying restitution, fines, or back taxes.

Ultimately consumers pay for it just like everything else.

Any intelligent business (including Amazon) builds the fraud rate into their pricing somehow to cover the costs associated with it.

A lot of people don’t understand this. I know people who say “who cares if UPS raises their rates, I get free shipping,” which only shows that they don’t understand how the economics of pricing works.

One of the best parts of having a daughter who is a criminal defense attorney is being able to pick up the phone and ask questions (and NOT have to pay any hourly rates!)

Since this is/was a Federal case he could have been sentenced to as little as three MONTHS in a Federal facility where at least SOME mental health help would be available (in theory at least).

What she was struck by was the five years of probation. THAT puts him at a much higher risk of actually getting sent to prison than a shorter (months) sentence and a shorter probation time if he violates.

His probation agent can order him to therapy sessions, treatment, drug testing (to see he is taking his meds), etc.

There is NO question that a long sentence with no treatment would be wrong. The issue is that people seeing the headline and NOT reading the story will go – ‘WOW, I can get away with that’.

If this were a State of WI case he would have/would have gotten up to 12 months in jail with work release and release for therapy/counseling, etc.

If the sentence at the State level was longer it would be a major problem at this time. Currently there is such a lack of staffing that the main prison has been on lock down for over a year. They do have mental health availability but there is a waiting line so long most people will be released before they get to the front.

EVERY President has appointed judges that make decisions that are questionable at best and they all second guess what lead to the appointment at some point. I just happen to believe that a slap on the wrist is not a deterrent when it does NOT involve mental illness.

The ‘broken window’ methods in NYC brought results. Unfortunately the cops at that time were REALLY good at targeting certain people that weren’t white, middle class, connected to the power base. That put an end to the policies and you can feel free to compare crime rates during and since for the effects of lax enforcement.

I’m in the ‘burbs’ outside of Milwaukee where the number of 14, 15, 16 year old kids with multiple car thefts has skyrocketed in recent years because they are let loose immediately. This one is an exception because they actually charged the driver –

End of rant BUT we just found out the drunk that almost killed my wife 3 years and 9 months ago had her probation extended for another year because she has paid back almost nothing on the restitution order. Small win but we’ll take it.

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Which sounds great, but at some point raising the prices to account for fraud, theft, loses, etc. prices an item out of the market. Even if it doesn’t, simple supply and demand means an increase in price will reduce demand for that item. Sellers can try to pass these costs on to consumers, but no matter how they price items, they eat some of the damage.


:thinking: Very interesting…so perhaps there is a strategy at play here, that might not be obvious.

Excellent point. And if they don’t dig a bit deeper, then I hope it ends up being an FAFO situation with minimal to zero damage to Sellers.

I’m sorry to hear what your wife and family went through. If something like that happened to me, I’d be somewhat bitter about certain things.

I would like to point out that addiction is classified as mental illness basically since at least the release of DSM 5 (10 years ago, I think?) For example, f11.20 happens to be opioid use disorder. There’s likely a specific one for alcoholism, and general “substance abuse disorders,” as well. Just something to keep in mind.

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I guess it’d be more accurate to say that everybody pays for it, though, ultimately every channel has it’s share of issues so prices across the board account for that. All sellers likely accept smaller margins and all buyers have to accept higher prices pretty much everywhere to account for these issues. Not to mention there’s costs associated with investigating/prosecuting these types of cases as well that everyone pays for.

But you also have to remember that playing fast and loose with these issues is why ecommerce boomed so much. Offering buyers strong protections gives them the confidence to shop online without fear of getting scammed.

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