A Brooklyn cyber-merchant who recently drew attention by boasting that he used unusually bad customer service to boost his business was due in federal court in Manhattan Monday, following his arrest for allegedly threatening customers and other violations.
Vitaly Borker was charged with cyber-stalking, the making of interstate threats and both mail and wire fraud.
"Vitaly Borker, an alleged cyber-bully and fraudster, cheated his customers, and when they complained, tried to intimidate them with obscenity and threats of serious violence," said Manhattan US Attorney Pheet Bharara in a press release. "Especially during this holiday shopping season, today's arrest should send a message that we will protect online consumers and that victims of people like Borker are not alone."
In a Nov. 26 article in the New York Times, Borker told a reporter that securing many online reviews, regardless of what they say, is part of his strategy to generate business for his site, DecorMyEyes.com,which sells high-end eyeware.
Borker’s company has received numerous negative reviews on Internet sites, which had only increased the site’s prominence in Google search results.
Google announcedlast week that it changed the methodology behind how it ranks search results in order to make it harder for unscrupulous merchants to appear prominently in searches.
Federal agents found weapons and ammunition at Borker's home when they arrested him on Monday.
The cyber-stalking and interstate threats charges each carry a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison; each conviction of the mail fraud and wire fraud charges could mean up to 20 years behind bars.
The federal government filed the charges on December 3 in the Southern District of New York against Borker, who goes by the aliases of Tony Russo and Stanley Bolds.
The complaint accused the defendant Borker of acting toward customers “unlawfully, willfully and knowingly, with the intent to kill, injure, harass and place under surveillance with intent to kill, injure, harass and intimidate, and to cause substantial emotional distress.”
The complaint spells out details of the offenses, in which Borker's firm sent customers defective and counterfeit eyeglasses, refused to give refunds and threatened customers physically.
According to the complaint, Borker told one customer, known as Victim 4, “I know where you live” and “I can hurt you,” after the victim threatened to file a complaint against the merchant with the Federal Trade Commission.