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Customers? Bah. Eyeglass seller allegedly threatened to kill them

September 07, 2012|By Tina Susman
  • This undated photo shows Vitaly Borker, owner of DecorMyEyes.com. A federal court judge sentenced Borker to four years in prison for sending threatening emails and for wire and mail fraud.
This undated photo shows Vitaly Borker, owner of DecorMyEyes.com. A federal… (US Marshals Service / Wikimedia…)

Vitaly Borker was an Internet shopper's "worst nightmare," according to prosecutors, who say he terrorized unhappy customers of his eyeglass business with threats of rape, assault and even murder if they complained about his shoddy products.

"I hope you fall off a ladder and break your head ... I pee on your negative [comments]," he told one angry buyer, according to a federal indictment. "I can hurt you," he told another.

But on Thursday, the man who gave new meaning to the term "lousy customer service" saw his alleged threats come back to haunt him as a federal court judge sentenced Borker to four years in prison for sending threatening emails and for wire and mail fraud.

"These were vile threats, and you were terrorizing these people," Judge Richard J. Sullivan told Borker, 36, who pleaded guilty in May 2011 after complaints about his Manhattan online eyewear business, DecorMyEyes.com, led to criminal charges. Borker also was ordered to pay more than $96,000 in fines and restitution.

The case came to light in an unusual manner. In November 2010, the New York Times ran a lengthy story outlining the saga of a woman named Clarabelle Rodriguez, who said she had been the subject of relentless cyber-bullying by someone from DecorMyEyes.com after her order for eyeglasses and contact lenses wasn't met. Borker, in that article, bragged that he welcomed barrages of negative online comments and did his best to provoke them, because more comments pushed his site to the top of Google search results and fueled sales.

Borker was arrested in December 2010, after Rodriguez's five-month-long battle with DecorMyEyes.com came to a head. According to the federal indictment, what had begun as a case of bizarrely bad customer service spiraled into threats delivered over the telephone and via email. In one case, Borker sent an email that included a photograph of Rodriguez's apartment building, prosecutors said.

When she posted a negative review of DecorMyEyes online, Borker allegedly warned Rodriguez to drop her complaints "if you know what's good for you." "Do the right thing and everyone goes away. I AM WATCHING YOU!" one email said.

Other victims had emails allegedly sent by Borker to their workplaces, falsely accusing them of drug dealing and of adulterous affairs.

"Please drop dead, OK?" Borker is accused of writing to a Colorado customer who complained when the two pairs of eyeglasses he ordered from DecorMyEyes.com arrived broken.

That was one of the milder remarks delivered by Borker, who often used the alias of Tony Russo or Stanley Bolds in his online communications, prosecutors say. Many of the threats were littered with obscenities and threats of sexual violence. All carried the same message, said the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara: that customers who complained would pay dearly.

"Vitaly Borker was an Internet shopper's worst nightmare," Bharara said in a statement after the sentencing. "Borker operated behind the veil of the Internet and aliases to first defraud his victims and then, if they complained, terrorize them with threats, intimidation, and harassment."

Rodriguez was one of the alleged victims who testified at a hearing held in July, which the judge called to help him decide on a sentence. "I was appalled," she said of the threats she had received. "I started to cry." Another alleged victim, Marlene Pedesclaux, testified via a video link from Louisiana and said Borker threatened to kill her and her family after she accused him of cheating her on an order for Coach sunglasses.

Sarah Lauch, who testified by video from Illinois, said Borker left her a voicemail in which he threatened to slice her legs off after she returned a pair of fake Chanel eyeglass frames.

The judge rescinded Borker's bail after the hearing, saying he felt the witnesses to be "highly credible." Borker, though, denied making specific threats of rape, murder and assault, and said he had only made general threats.

Borker's attorney, Dominic Amorosa, cited DecorMyEyes.com sales of more than 100,000 pairs of eyeglasses as evidence the business was legitimate and successful. Amorosa had also argued in court papers that there was "not a scintilla of evidence" that Borker ever planned on carrying out any threats.

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tina.susman@latimes.com

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