Home Fashion glasses A fraudster who just can’t seem to stop… selling glasses

A fraudster who just can’t seem to stop… selling glasses


What if they can’t help it?

Fraudsters were arrested, convicted and sent to jail as long as there were cages strong enough to hold the accused. Through walks and trials, audiences are led to contemplate the audacity of misconduct (as in the case of Elizabeth Holmes) or its destructive wake (Bernie Madoff) and ask themselves: what is would push someone to commit a crime so audacious that it borders on unbelievable?

One answer is provided by the ongoing and puzzling case of Vitaly Borker. A 45-year-old Ukrainian native, Mr. Borker was arrested last week in Brooklyn by federal postal inspectors and charged with mail fraud and wire fraud. This is his third entanglement with the law on the same charge: intimidating and misleading customers of his online eyewear store.

As the compulsions progress, this one seems particular. Mr. Borker apparently enjoys the grueling job of harassing and threatening eyeglass buyers so much that after more than five years in prison, in two spells, he still doesn’t seem to have sought a new career. Prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York allege Mr. Borker didn’t even wait until he was a free man to start scamming clients again in June 2020. He was still in a halfway house.

Dominic Amorosa, his lawyer, said in an email that Mr Borker intended to plead not guilty.

Business and popular culture value relentlessness, even when it seems excessive. Michael Jordan used to imagine that basketball opponents personally insulted him in order to supercharge his hypercompetitive zeal. Many business leaders have a goal that can seem single-minded. Al Dunlap, a former chief executive of home appliance company Sunbeam and a man who brought predatory joy to employee layoffs, was a key character in a book called “The Psychopath Test.”

But these people have little trouble staying on the right side of the law. For Mr. Borker, it seems like a struggle, although he has recently curbed the excesses of his early and most harmful methods, suggesting that he understands that there is a line between legal and illegal behavior.

In 2010, he ran a website called DecorMyEyes, which regularly sent out cheap, counterfeit versions of eyewear made by companies such as Dior and Chanel, and erupted in anger when refunds were demanded.

Then he got even more aggressive. Under the pseudonym of Stanley Bolds, he often threatened to maim or murder buyers. In one instance, he swore to cut off a woman’s legs. In another, he sent an email with a photo of a client’s building and a note saying, “PS, don’t forget I know where you live.” He once sent emails to a client’s colleagues, informing them that the client was gay and was selling drugs.

At 6ft 5in tall, Mr Borker would most likely have hovered over anyone he wanted to threaten in person. But no one ever said he followed up on her physical threats. Enough people were scared, however, that they overwhelmed the message boards of consumer complaint sites, like getsatisfaction.com.

In an eerily candid interview a week before his first arrest in 2010, Mr Borker described his savage approach to customer service as the cutting edge of internet commerce. Google searches, he claimed, did not distinguish between negative and positive reviews, so the more people shouted about DecorMyEyes online, the higher his company ranked in search results.

On its blog, Google announced after its first arrest that it had tweaked its algorithm and that now “being bad for customers is bad for business on Google”.

In the latter case, Mr. Borker’s tactics have softened considerably. The complaint presented by the government describes an online seller who could, in less legalistic terms, be called a liar and a jerk.

Its website claimed to sell “brand new and genuine eyewear and sunglasses.” In fact, according to the complaint, the glasses were second-hand or fake. Mr. Borker also refused to provide refunds when customers demanded them. Someone identified as victim 2 got a refund, but about $50 less than a full refund.

If Mr. Borker returns to prison, history suggests he is unlikely to come out safe. At the most basic level, he simply loves the job. He once explained to a reporter that he relished the chaos and frenetic energy needed to constantly harass dozens of buyers.

“I love madness,” he said. “It works for me.”

In a previous case, court-appointed mental health experts concluded that Mr. Borker exhibited symptoms of bipolar disorder, narcissism and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

In a pre-sentence letter, he appeared to agree. “Something is wrong with my brain,” he wrote.