Man accused of making thousands of fraudulent Amazon returns

June 17, 2020 GMT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A Rhode Island businessman was arrested Wednesday on charges that he ran an elaborate scam to defraud Amazon by ordering thousands of products and then returning the packages with different items inside.

Michael Chaves, 40, faces charges of wire fraud and mail fraud. He appeared before a judge Wednesday and was ordered to be held in federal custody.

Court documents allege that, since March 2017, Chaves has used 30 Amazon accounts to place nearly 11,000 orders valued at $714,000. Most of the orders were returned, leading to more than $640,000 in refunds.


But many of the items he returned were different than what he ordered, prosecutors say. In some cases he sent back items that looked similar to the original product, while in others he returned boxed items of a similar weight.

In one case detailed in court documents, Chaves ordered a truck tire and sent back two pieces of wood. In another case, he allegedly ordered a car part and returned dog treats.

A message was left with Chaves’ attorney.

Most of his purchases were car parts, prosecutors said, but he also bought and returned televisions, cellphones, lawn mowers and vacuum cleaners.

Chaves, the former owner of an East Providence automobile transport company, was already awaiting sentencing in another federal case when he was arrested.

He pleaded guilty in 2019 to identity theft, falsification of federal records and other charges after authorities said he falsified safety records at his trucking company and used someone else’s identity to operate the company after it was ordered closed.