Vitaly Borker, the owner of a Manhattan Beach-based online eye-wear retailer accused of harassing and threatening customers, was sentenced to four years in federal prison yesterday.
Borker, 35, was arrested in December 2010 after a New York Times article caught him boasting of his success in attracting traffic and sales to his site, DecorMyEyes.com, by terrorizing customers with threats of violence and even rape. Authorities busted Borker days later, and a raid on his Beaumont Street home-office found a trove of counterfeit goods, guns and child pornography.
His actions even spurred Google to change its system for page ranking, so that cyber-bullies like Borker do not benefit from negative online reviews.
In May of 2011, Borker pleaded guilty to two counts of sending threatening communications, one count of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud. The mail fraud and wire fraud charges are because Borker was allegedly selling knock-offs of designer eyewear.
“Vitaly Borker was an Internet shopper’s worst nightmare,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. “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.”
The sentencing comes short of the five to six-and-a-half year sentence that prosecutors were shooting for, but much more than the 18 months his attorney expected.
Borker will also pay more than $96,000 in fines and restitution. His attorney said he will appeal the sentencing.
For several months after Borker’s arrest, he was released on a $1 million bond and was confined to his home. The judge banned him from using the internet, and even phone usage was monitored. To ensure compliance, the judge tasked a security guard to stay with him the entire time, at a cost to Borker of $1,000 a day.
According to CBS News, Borker was in tears during the sentencing and said, ‘I had a big mouth. I just couldn’t control it and it ruined my life.’
The New York Times reports that, though Borker pleaded guilty, a slew of hearings had delayed sentencing:
Though he pleaded guilty, Mr. Borker’s case went on for more than 18 contentious months, punctuated by a number of hearings. The latest, in July, centered on whether Mr. Borker had uttered the worst of the statements in the government’s indictment, something he denied.
A handful of Mr. Borker’s victims were summoned to testify about calls and e-mails they had received, which turned out to include a threat to slice off the legs of one customer. Federal District Judge Richard J. Sullivan said, at the end of one day of testimony, that he found the victims credible and so disturbing that he revoked Mr. Borker’s bail, which had allowed him to live at home under restrictions.
… His lawyer, Dominic F. Amorosa, argued that Mr. Borker deserved leniency because he is mentally ill — a doctor hired by the defense said he has “a bipolar mood disorder characterized by impulsive and manic mood symptoms” — and was frequently under the influence of marijuana and alcohol.
Mr. Amorosa also contended that only a tiny fraction of Mr. Borker’s customers were threatened and that his business was otherwise a thriving enterprise. DecorMyEyes had thousands of repeat customers, he said, and millions of dollars in revenue.
“He threatened, horribly, 25 people,” Mr. Amorosa said, suggesting that was a small number, given the scale of the company.
Once Borker is released from prison, he will face three years of probation, during which he will not be permitted to use a computer.