Borker's US Marshals Service mugshot
April 25, 1986 |
Odessa, Ukrainian SSR
|Residence||Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, New York|
|Other names||Stanley Bolds
|Height||6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)|
|Criminal charge||2 counts of 875(c) Interstate Threats
2 counts 1841 and 1843 Wire/Mail Fraud
|Criminal penalty||4 years of prison
Nearly $1,000,000 in restitution and fines
3 years of supervised release
|Criminal status||Released from prison on March 11, 2015|
|Motive||Increase his site's Google PageRank by causing disgruntled customers to link to his site|
|Conviction(s)||2 counts of sending interstate threats
1 count of mail fraud
1 count of wire fraud
Vitaly Borker (born April 25, 1986) is a Ukrainian-born resident of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. Borker owns DecorMyEyes, Opticsfast, & Eyeweartown, an online retailer specializing in designer eyeglasses, under the pseudonyms "Tony Russo" and "Stanley Bolds". Borker's sales strategy was that there is 'no such thing as bad publicity'. He intimidated customers and welcomed online complaints about DecorMyEyes because they caused the site to appear higher in Google search results, improving sales.
Borker was arrested in December 2010 and charged with mail fraud, wire fraud and making interstate threats. He pleaded guilty to fraud charges and making threats. Sentencing was postponed on May 10, 2012, to allow the judge to hear testimony from dozens of victims who reported being threatened with violence, including murder and jokes. On July 11, 2012, after hearing from five victims, the judge called their testimony about the threats "highly credible" and ordered Borker jailed without bail.
Google page rankings
Customers of DecorMyEyes posted numerous reports of receiving threats, abuse, poor service and overcharges on websites such as ResellerRatings, where DecorMyEyes has, as of October 29, 2010, a lifetime rating of 1.39/10 from 79 reviews. According to Borker, each bad review boosts his site's PageRank, meaning that the site comes top of Google's ratings for many of the products he sells. While a direct Google search for "DecorMyEyes" elicits the site and its many negative reviews, searching for individual products and brands does not. The reason, cited by an anonymous Google publicist, is that the large number of links to DecorMyEyes from consumer complaint sites such as Ripoff Report cause DecorMyEyes to rank high in Google search results. Google responded to a New York Times story by writing an algorithm that "detects the merchant from the Times article along with hundreds of other merchants that, in our opinion, provide an extremely poor user experience" and significantly reduces their search visibility on product searches.
According to Danny Sullivan, formerly of Search Engine Watch, the solution to the problem of bad publicity being as good as good publicity for search engine optimization is to include consumer reviews alongside links to e-commerce websites in search results.
On December 6, 2010, Vitaly Borker, born 1986, the owner of the firm, was arrested by agents of the United States Postal Inspection Service on charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, making interstate threats and cyberstalking, and arraigned in the United States District Court in Manhattan. Bail was denied on the basis that he was a threat to the community. A search of the defendant's premises resulted in confiscation of a stock of counterfeit eyeglasses, and fake 8mm replica guns. State charges have been dismissed. After months of confinement in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, Borker was freed on bail on April 6, 2011, after posting a bond of $1 million and accepting restrictions that included accepting surveillance by a security guard in his home.
Guilty plea and sentencing
On May 12, 2011, Borker pleaded guilty in Federal District Court in Manhattan to two counts of interstate communication of threats, one count of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud. After several procedural deferrals, sentencing was scheduled for May 10, 2012. At the sentencing, Borker's attorney insisted that Borker never threatened customers with rape or murder despite claims by numerous individuals that he did. The judge postponed the sentencing, saying he wanted to hear testimony from the dozens of victims who reported being threatened with violence. Although federal guidelines recommend a sentence of roughly three years in prison, the judge said he might impose a more severe sentence, stating "I think these are very relevant facts, and if I find them credible, it’s going to affect the sentence in a way that’s going to be significant".
Immediately after hearing from the first five victim witnesses on July 11, 2012, the judge called their testimony about threats "highly credible" and ordered Borker jailed without bail. The testimony detailed threats of murder, rape and, in one instance, slicing off a woman’s legs. The threats were made after customers canceled eyeglass orders or credit card transactions. More witnesses were scheduled to testify the following week.
On September 6, 2012, Borker was sentenced to four years in federal prison and ordered to pay nearly $1,000,000 in fines and restitution.
- Segal, David. "Web Dealer Sentenced for Threats". New York Times. Retrieved 7 September 2012.
- David Segal (2010-11-26). "For DecorMyEyes, Bad publicity is a good thing". New York Times.
- Joe Coscarelli (2010-11-28). "Vitaly Borker, Thuggish Russia-Born Brooklynite, Stars in Sunday's New York Times". Village Voice (blog).
- Segal, David (December 6, 2010). "U.S. Arrests Online Seller Who Scared Customers". The New York Times. Retrieved December 7, 2010.
- AP (2012-05-10). "NY judge wants victims to describe murder, threats in eyewear website operator case". Washington Post.
- AP (2012-07-12). "NY judge orders eyewear website operator jailed after witnesses recount murder, rape threats". Washington Post.
- Amit Singhal (2010-12-01). "Being bad to your customers is bad for business". The official Google Blog.
- "Title 18 U.S.C. 875(c)". Cornell University Law School. Retrieved May 13, 2011.
(c) Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
- Segal, David (May 12, 2011). "Online Seller Who Bullied Customers Pleads Guilty". The New York Times. Retrieved May 13, 2011.