May 16, 2011, 1:21 PM

E-retailer pleads guilty to fraud and threatening customers

The crimes included selling counterfeit eyeglasses and placing unauthorized credit card charges.

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Vitaly Borker, the owner and operator of online luxury eyewear retail site, pled guilty last week to four counts of defrauding customers and threatening them when they complained, the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan has announced.

Since January 2007 Borker has sold counterfeit or damaged goods from and made unauthorized charges to customers’ credit cards, the U.S. attorney’s office says. Borker also threatened customers and their family members by telephone and e-mail. In one case, Borker told a Manhattan-based customer that he knew her address, that he was only one bridge away and that he would come to her residence and rape her, according to the complaint, filed by postal inspector Douglas G. Veatch of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. After she hung up he called her repeatedly throughout the night and sent her an e-mail that included a photograph of the outside of her residence, the complaint says.

 “Vitaly Borker was a cyberbully who subjected his victims to abusive, profanity-laced tirades and threats of physical violence,” says Manhattan U.S. attorney Preet Bharara. “He used fraud and intimidation as a business model, selling customers inferior goods and then repeatedly harassing them when they complained.”

Borker pled guilty to one count each of mail fraud and wire fraud, as well as two counts of sending threatening communications. He faces up to 50 years in prison. The threatening communications charges each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison. The mail fraud and wire fraud charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 16.

Borker was the subject of a long article in the New York Times Nov. 28 in which he was depicted as boasting that he goaded unhappy customers into posting complaints on online review sites, believing that would raise his ranking in Google search results. Google responded a few days later by announcing it was taking steps to lower the rankings of merchants that consistently provided poor service, including Borker’s. did not immediately respond to a request for comment and the site appears to be abandoned, as the central image on the home page advertises “You still have time: Guaranteed Christmas delivery.”

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