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He Made Millions Selling Glasses—and Bullying Buyers

The 'New York Times' asks whether Vitaly Borker is at it again
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted May 9, 2021 12:30 PM CDT

(Newser) – The judge said he had never before encountered a defendant who returned "so quickly to exactly the same crime." The question is whether Vitaly Borker is now back at it a third time. Writing for the New York Times, David Segal dives into the Ukrainian immigrant's backstory, starting with a site the then-Brooklyn resident ran a little more than a decade ago called DecorMyEyes. The online glasses retailer sold cheap knockoffs that it claimed were genuine. But the wilder part is how it handled customers who complained: customers were threatened with rape and violence; another customer's colleagues were sent emails claiming said customer was a drug dealer. If that sounds bad for business, it actually wasn't: Google's algorithm at the time didn't distinguish between positive and negative chatter, and the activity around the site pushed it to the top of Google's results.

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It ended up being a sweet gig until it wasn't. The business required no storefront or inventory (Borker often bought directly from eBay and other vendors who shipped straight to the clients), and he made $3.2 million in a single year. He also ended up in prison, where he served 3.5 years for fraud and his emailed threats. Once out, he was back at it this time with a site called OpticsFast, which he managed to run until his 2017 arrest and subsequent sentence for mail and wire fraud. He was out in November 2020, and Segal suspects he's now running Eyeglassesdepot, whose customers haven't been threatened but have been doxxed—with their personal info and credit card details posted beneath the negative reviews they wrote online. (Read the full story for tales of people who have been burned, including one woman who got a call from Eyeglassesdepot's "CEO" on Easter Sunday over an unused $9.95 mailing label they claimed she had to pay for.)

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