NEW YORK (AP) - An eyewear website operator was imprisoned without bail Wednesday after witnesses said he threatened them with murder or rape when they complained about eyeglass orders.
U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan in Manhattan ordered Vitaly Borker, 36, jailed as soon as the last of five witnesses from across the country finished testifying about the terror they felt from his threats. The judge said he found "highly credible" their claims that Borker made threats that included murder, rape and, in one instance, slicing off a woman's legs.
Borker pleaded guilty last year to making threats and fraud charges. He was to be sentenced earlier this year but the judge stopped the proceeding and asked to hear from witnesses after Borker's lawyer, Dominic Amorosa, insisted Borker never threatened anyone with rape or death despite claims by numerous individuals that he did. Amorosa cited sales of more than 100,000 pairs of eyeglasses to show that the business was successful. He conceded that Borker made threats but denied he ever said he would kill anyone.
Federal sentencing guidelines call for a sentence of roughly three years in prison, but Sullivan has said he might impose a harsher sentence.
Prosecutors said well over 200 complaints against Borker had been filed with the Federal Trade Commission since 2007 over the operation of his website, DecorMyEyes.com.
Sarah Lauch, testifying from the Chicago area via videotape, said Wednesday that she began getting threats after she tried to cancel her glasses order, taking advantage of the money-back guarantee that was promised on the website.
"It was horrible. It was a nightmare for a month and a half," she said.
Lauch said Borker in a voicemail message said: "I hope you die. I want to slice your legs off." She said she did not save the message.
Marlene Pedesclaux, testifying via videotape from a Marrero, La., courthouse near New Orleans, said she was harassed after she canceled her $149 credit card transaction in 2010 when she was sent damaged sunglasses.
"Yes, a lot of F-bombs went flying," she said of Borker's language.
Pedesclaux said Borker threatened to kill her and her family and to stalk her relentlessly unless she withdrew her canceled order.
"I asked him if it was worth it for $149," she said.
Melissa Kross, another Chicago-area resident, testified in Manhattan that she was threatened through emails and phone calls after she canceled her $200 order for glasses when the glasses never arrived.
"I was terrified," Kross said. "At one point, he had even threatened to kill me."
She said she was so scared that she contacted police and spent $500 on a home security system.
After the testimony, Sullivan summoned court officers from the back of the courtroom to take Borker away even though more witnesses are scheduled to testify next week.
"Thus far, I have found all the witnesses to be highly credible," he said.
Amorosa declined comment as he left court. At an earlier hearing, he blamed Borker's actions on psychiatric problems including bipolar behavior and said his client was "full of remorse for what he did to these people."