May 13, 2011 at 3:49 PM ET
An online retailer who not only bullied and terrified his customers pleaded guilty in court Friday to charges of sending threatening communications, mail fraud and wire fraud.
Vitaly Borker, owner of DecorMyEyes.com, an eyeglasses website, could face five to six years in prison when he is sentenced in September. In the meantime, he remains a prisoner of sorts in his own Brooklyn home, with a security guard onsite. Borker is also is barred from using the Internet, and restricted in his phone use, according to a judge's mandate.
In federal court Friday, Borker told Judge Richard J. Sullivan that business pressure was the reason he lied to and frightened his customers. The New York Times — which first reported Borker's bullying — including threats to kill or sexually assault customers — said Borker read a statement to the judge Friday that said, in part:
"I was answering personally about 100 emails a day and lost control of what I was saying at times ... I want to apologize to everyone I hurt in connection with my actions, especially those people I threatened," Borker said, according to the Times report Friday.
In one case, a customer who tried to return a pair of glasses she didn't want was told by Borker: "Listen, bitch ... I know your address. I’m one bridge over" — a reference, the Times said, to Borker's home office in Brooklyn.
"Then, she said, he threatened to find her and commit an act of sexual violence too graphic to describe in a newspaper," the Times reported.
There was, however, a method to Borker's madness, something he revealed to the newspaper last fall: That by so upsetting customers, he got them to vent at complaint websites, which in turn, gave his website a higher ranking in Google search results. Google quickly responded by creating an "algorithmic solution" to combat that kind of strategy.
Borker was indicted in December by the U.S. Attorney's Office. He was being held in a detention center until early last month. Some of his victims may feel safe only if and when he is behind bars. Until then, there's — what else? — a Facebook page for those who need to vent and share their anger.