09/06/2012 06:59 pm ET Updated Nov 06, 2012

Vitaly Borker, Owner Of, Gets 4 Years In Prison For Fraud, Threatening Customers

* owner Vitaly Borker sentenced

* Fined more than $96,000

* Threatened clients who said they would report him

By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK, Sept 6 (Reuters) - An Internet eyewear seller was sentenced to 4 years in federal prison on Thursday after he pleaded guilty last year to defrauding customers and then threatening them when they complained.

Vitaly Borker, who owned the website, was also ordered to pay more than $96,000 in fines and restitution by U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan in Manhattan federal court.

Borker, 35, a Brooklyn resident, advertised luxury eyeglasses and sunglasses but frequently shipped damaged, defective or counterfeit items, according to prosecutors. Borker also often added unauthorized charges and failed to reimburse customers who either returned their glasses or never received their orders.

Instead, often using the aliases "Tony Russo" or "Stanley Bolds," Borker threatened to kill or hurt customers when they said they would report his actions to their credit card companies, many customers said. From 2007 to 2010, hundreds of complaints about Borker's site were filed with the Federal Trade Commission.

In one instance, Borker repeatedly called a Manhattan woman who had complained, saying he knew where she lived and could hurt her, prosecutors said. In other cases, Borker sent obscene or false emails to co-workers of his customers, claiming they were engaged in sexual affairs or drug dealing.

"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."

Borker's defense lawyer, Dominic Amorosa, said he would appeal the sentence because the judge erred in not taking into account Borker's acceptance of responsibility under federal sentencing guidelines.

Borker's conduct gained widespread attention after a 2010 New York Times story reported that he angered customers on purpose to generate negative online comments about his website, part of a business strategy to raise the site's profile in Google searches. (Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Richard Chang)



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