DOJ Amazon Marketplace Sellers Plead Guilty To Price Fixing

A New Jersey man and two New York men pleaded guilty yesterday to fixing the prices of DVDs and Blu-Ray Discs sold on the Amazon Marketplace, reported the DOJ. 

According to court documents filed in Knoxville, Tennessee, Morris Sutton, Emmanuel Hourizadeh and Raymond Nouvahian were charged with conspiring with others to fix prices of DVDs and Blu-Ray Discs sold through the Amazon Marketplace. The price-fixing conspiracy each engaged in was ongoing from at least as early as November 2017 and continued until at least Oct. 29, 2019. Sutton, Hourizadeh and Nouvahian are the second, third and fourth individuals to be charged and to plead guilty in the ongoing investigation. 

“As American consumers increasingly turn to e-commerce, it is critically important to deter, detect and prosecute crimes that prevent fair and open competition in online marketplaces,” said Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “These charges demonstrate the Antitrust Division’s continued commitment to prosecuting anticompetitive conduct wherever it may occur.”

According to a one-count information charging Sutton, and another one-count information charging Hourizadeh and Nouvahian, each of the charged individuals and his co-conspirators agreed to raise and maintain the prices of DVDs and Blu-Ray Discs sold in their Amazon Marketplace storefronts. The Amazon Marketplace is an e-commerce platform that enables third-party vendors to sell new or used products alongside Amazon’s own offerings. The Amazon Marketplace is owned and operated by Amazon.

“Price-fixing schemes chip away at the benefits afforded to us by a fair market system,” said Assistant Director in Charge Michael J. Driscoll of the FBI’s New York Field Office. “Artificially inflating prices to avoid giving consumers a choice, for the sole purpose of benefiting those involved in the fraudulent scheme, is a violation of federal law. These guilty pleas should serve as a warning to other like-minded criminals.”

“We are gratified to have contributed to this investigation and applaud the exceptional work by the investigative team for both protecting the individual consumer and the deterrence of activities in violation of the Sherman Act,” said Special Agent in Charge Ken Cleevely of the US Postal Service, Office of Inspector General (USPS OIG). “Along with our law enforcement partners, the USPS OIG will continue to aggressively investigate those who would engage in this type of harmful conduct.”

A criminal violation of the Sherman Act carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $1 million criminal fine for individuals. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the US Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.