Ovidijus Margelis, 26, rigged packages with match heads, combustible paper, and a timer device so that the address label would be destroyed while they were in transit.
But his plan unravelled when he tried the same trick with an Apple watch he was selling online, as the package failed to ignite in the post and was actually delivered to a family home in Cricklewood.
The family believed they had been sent a bomb, sparking a full-scale evacuation of the streets around their house, Kingston crown court heard.
Amazon’s main depot in Dunfermline had to be partially shutdown twice in September last year, when burnt parcels containing a timer device were discovered and army bomb disposal teams were dispatched.
Post office depots and major roads were closed down when it was believed explosive packages had been sent to Bristol, Bath, and a law firm in Greater Manchester, while a Hermes depot in Newmarket also received one of Margelis’ parcels.
Prosecutor Edward Franklin said Margelis, a third year business management student at Anglia Ruskin University, had “drawn on his experience of working at an Amazon delivery centre in Peterborough in 2018”.
Judge Martyn Barklem sentenced Margelis to 21 months in prison, saying the fraud plot emerged from money worries.
Tom Wainwright, representing Margelis, said the reality of the fraud plot had been brought home to him after he was arrested by anti-terrorism officer and detained in prison for several months.
“What Mr Margelis did was incredibly stupid but it was not malicious”, he said. “The consequences simply never crossed his mind.
“Like many very intelligent people, he lacks some common sense, it’s not a very uncommon affliction, and he clearly lacks foresight and consequential thinking.”
The court heard Lithuania-born Margelis, who moved to the UK seven years ago, managed to obtain £1,646 through the fraud plot, with explosive parcels timed to activate around 950 minutes after they had been sent.
“He purchased items from Amazon then claimed a refund”, said Mr Franklin. “He printed out a return label, causing the item to be returned to the depot, but rather than returning the item his parcel device.
“When the returning item was lost in the postal system, the defendant was left with both the goods and the refund.”
Smouldering and burnt-out parcels were discovered by Amazon workers, as hundreds of staff were told to stop working while the bomb squad was on the scene.
Mr Franklin said the family who received the explosive parcel instead of an Apple watch “concluded it might be a bomb”.
The total harm has been estimated at £591,000, the court heard.
Margelis, from Cambridge, pleaded guilty to making an explosive substance – namely an improvised pyrotechnic device – fraud, and possession of articles for use in fraud.
He has been held in custody since his arrest in September last year.