An Amazon employee has been arrested and charged by the FBI for defrauding the company of nearly $140,000 by abusing his privileged access to the company’s refunds system.

The US Department of Justice brought charges against former Amazon Selling Support Associate Vu Anh Nguyen for federal wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, as TechCrunch reported.

As a Selling Support Associate, Nguyen had access to a “Spoofer” account, which lets Amazon employees develop, test, integrate and support the company’s third-party sellers’ websites, and to access and edit their accounts.

“Spoofer accounts are granted to Amazon employees with specific job responsibilities that require them to view and edit third-party seller accounts,” the court filing said. “Using their assigned Spoofer accounts, Amazon employees can manually authorise refunds for items ordered from third-party sellers.

“The Spoofer account activity of Amazon employees is logged and monitored by Amazon for abusive conduct.”

According to the charges, between November 2019 and February 2020 Nguyen allegedly used his access to this Spoofer account to falsely and fraudulently issue $US96,508.13 in refunds to himself and associates for products ordered on Amazon.

In this time Nguyen allegedly issued 318 unauthorised refunds for a range of items, including a computer and other electronics, through eight Amazon accounts, with none of the items returned to the company.

These refunds were not requested by any buyers and their issuing was done “on his own and without justification”, according to the charges.

Nguyen also allegedly operated two third-party seller accounts separate from his work at the company, where he also issued refunds to orders he shipped to his home or other locations he had access to.

The US Department of Justice will allege that he ordered just over $US222 worth of items to his home and then authorised a refund for these items without ever returning them, essentially receiving them for free.

Nguyen was hired by Amazon in Tempe, Arizona in early March 2019, and was fired by the company in mid-March this year following an investigation. Amazon reported him to the FBI after detecting the suspicious activity.

“Amazon has systems and processes in place to mitigate misuse of our tools, and to monitor and detect suspicious behaviour,” Amazon said in a statement. “Amazon’s systems identified the suspicious refunds and Amazon conducted a thorough investigation.

“There is no place for misconduct or fraud at Amazon. We hold our employees to a high bar, have systems in place to proactively prevent fraud, continue to monitor activity, and will pursue all measures to protect our store and hold bad actors accountable.

“Nguyen’s employment was immediately terminated and Amazon reported the case to law enforcement. We thank the Department of Justice and FBI for their swift work to hold this fraudster accountable.”

Nguyen has also been charged with aggravated identity theft, with court filings alleging he “knowingly transferred, possessed and used, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person”.

“More specifically, on that date, to effectuate an instance of a fraudulent refund with use of an interstate wire, Nguyen used the nae and credit card information belonging to a third party without lawful authority,” the court filing said.

It comes just two months after four brothers were also charged with scamming Amazon out of $26 million as part of a wire fraud scheme. The four brothers, who did not work for Amazon, were charged with operating a “sophisticated and layered fraudulent invoicing scheme” where they were billing Amazon for goods that they never provided.

The accused allegedly created new wholesale businesses and opened vendor accounts with Amazon to sell the company small quantities of goods. They would allegedly accept a purchase order and agreed to supply goods, but then manipulated the system to claim to be providing “grossly inflated prices and excessive quantities” of the items.