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Malicious Online Retailer Ordered Held Without Bail 225

Posted by timothy
from the fair-enough dept.
Zaphod_85 writes "You may remember the New York Times story from a couple of weeks ago regarding Vitaly Borker, an online retailer intentionally harassing customers in order to gain linking points in Google's PageRank algorithm. Now, not only has Google altered their algorithm in order to prevent this tactic from being effective (Though according to Katherine Noyes at PCWorld, this tactic may never actually have been benefiting the website in the first place), Now Mr. Borker has the Feds to deal with. He is being charged with cyberstalking, wire fraud, mail fraud, and making interstate threats, and faces up to 50 years in prison if convicted on all counts. Given his disturbing behavior that brought about the charges, a federal judge has ordered he be held without bail while he awaits trial."
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Malicious Online Retailer Ordered Held Without Bail

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  • by ZipK (1051658) on Tuesday December 07, 2010 @08:55PM (#34481992)
    How long until he gets his new business rolling?
    • Re:DecorMyCell.com (Score:5, Informative)

      by clem.dickey (102292) on Tuesday December 07, 2010 @11:04PM (#34482780)

      Modded funny. Okay, but perhaps the moderators have forgotten the case of Norman Henry Hunt. Mr. Hunt was convicted of mail fraud (phony computer parts). He escaped from prison, was caught and convicted again (more mail fraud, plus the escape). After the second conviction, he was found to be running a mail order business out of a P.O. Box at NNCC. His ads represented NNCC as the Northern Nevada Computing Center; it was actually the Northern Nevada *Correctional* Center.

  • Real-life trolls (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KublaiKhan (522918) on Tuesday December 07, 2010 @08:55PM (#34481994) Homepage Journal
    This would be why trolling doesn't tend to work as well in real life, when there are real-life consequences, as it does on the internet when there's little chance (absent clever data-wrangling techniques and a little stalking) of your words coming back to bite you.
    • by RsG (809189) on Tuesday December 07, 2010 @09:13PM (#34482120)

      This guy wasn't trolling.

      Trolls are in it for the pleasure they get from pissing people off. This guy was in it for the money. Everything he (allegedly) did was motivated by greed.

      Which is why he gets the metaphorical book thrown at him and 4chan does not. The scumbag sold counterfeit goods and made threatening phone calls to people who complained or disputed the charges; he generated a paper trail in the form of credit card charges, phone records, etc. Finding him would be trivial for the courts.

      All he could do once the matter came to light was cut and run, which he didn't do (might be overconfidence, ignorance or stupidity).

      • One could argue he did it for the moneys AND the lulz. They aren't mutually exclusive.
      • Just to clarify, the courts don't find him, the Cops do. Courts don't really care if they find anyone with subpoena's orders or anything else. It's up to flatfoots (feet?) to make it happen.
    • by Moraelin (679338) on Tuesday December 07, 2010 @09:29PM (#34482258) Journal

      I don't think I'd call this guy just trolling.

      On the internet even from the start trolling meant just something crafted to create as many responses as possible, rather than rape threats. As the dictum went, "Confucius say: successful troll is master baiter" ;) Really, it didn't even have to be offensive or explicit or illegal. It could be something as indirect as asking which Linux distro has IE.

      And in the meantime it's largely become a synonym with "someone saying something I disagree with." Someone calling one's pet conspiracy theory a conspiracy theory? Someone else posting a bit of textbook science that contradicts one's ID beliefs? Someone else disagreeing that <insert game flop> is TEH GRATEST GAME EVAR? Someone else disagreed in another thread entirely? Well, they must be trolls and only saying that to get attention ;) But seriously, I've even seen textbook physics quotes modded as troll or overrated. It's just become the blanket excuse to not use one's brains and hang on to some pet dogma or half-truth: anyone disagreeing must be just trolling for attention.

      What this guy did is a bit beyond mere trolling. And I suspect that even the trolling excuse was just an excuse. Threatening to rape someone asking for a refund and mailing them photos of their home with texts like "I'M WATCHING YOU" and whatnot, is the kind of asshattery even most Internet trolls would distance themselves from very quickly. That's already way beyond just seeking attention.

      If anything, this just gives the lie to the old marketing canard that all exposure is good, and there is no such thing as bad publicity. I've seen it repeated in so many places, that it's not even funny. It turns out that, yes, there is bad publicity. Not only it can cross into being flat out illegal, but there's a very good case to be made that all that Google rank via people talking about how badly he treats customers, actually didn't benefit him. Getting mind-share as a dangerously deranged asshat to avoid can be just that: it just moves one from an unknown company to being the well known asshat company to avoid.

      • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

        You composed this comment with EMACS, didn't you?

      • by Dutch Gun (899105) on Tuesday December 07, 2010 @11:25PM (#34482896)

        Yeah, definitely no troll here. This is far worse. If you read the full interview, it's pretty clear the man is a certified sociopath. He has absolutely no moral compass... no notion of right or wrong. No notion that doing something to harm others is something you should even worry about.

        I hope they throw the book at him. Unbelievable.

        Oh, and I was happy to hear that Amazon doesn't screw around with allowing this sort of behavior (even if he does have an Amazon store). Too many unhappy customers and you're gone. One more reason I'm doing all my Christmas shopping through Amazon this year.

      • by bidule (173941)

        As the dictum went, "Confucius say: successful troll is master baiter" ;)

        Not every "master baiter" is a successful troll. Some only surf the Internet to master their "art". Even coming to /. could be seen as mental preparation. Now that I think about it, I have prepared long enough...

      • by Corbets (169101)

        Really, it didn't even have to be offensive or explicit or illegal. It could be something as indirect as asking which Linux distro has IE.

        You don't find that offensive???

  • Oh well. (Score:3, Funny)

    by orphiuchus (1146483) on Tuesday December 07, 2010 @09:01PM (#34482034)
    I was hoping this guy would get murdered when he ripped off the wrong guy. I guess getting raped in prison for 50 years will have to do.
    • Re:Oh well. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by enderjsv (1128541) on Tuesday December 07, 2010 @09:03PM (#34482052)

      He's not going to jail for 50 years. Journalists love to quote maximum jail sentences even though it's rare the maximum sentence is ever dealt.

      • He's not going to jail for 50 years. Journalists love to quote maximum jail sentences even though it's rare the maximum sentence is ever dealt.

        This is especially true with federal cases, where there are seperate explicit sentencing guidelines which work out so that, particularly with multiple charged counts, adding up the maximum available sentence for each offense is often vastly more than the sentence that would be justified taking the charged facts at face value with the sentencing guidelines applied.

      • Re:Oh well. (Score:5, Funny)

        by theskipper (461997) on Tuesday December 07, 2010 @09:19PM (#34482178)

        Agreed. Though this particular asshole deserves the full stretch.

        Pun intended.

        • Re:Oh well. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Arccot (1115809) on Wednesday December 08, 2010 @10:12AM (#34485834)

          Agreed. Though this particular asshole deserves the full stretch.

          Pun intended.

          I'm disappointed this was modded funny. Rape in any form isn't funny, its a nightmare.

          A society allowing it to go on in prisons and then making jokes about it is all kinds of screwed up.

      • by rahvin112 (446269)

        I agree he won't go to jail for 50 years. But he was denied bail and has a public defender. Given the wait to trail that the PD will need to build a defense the guy will be in Rikers for at LEAST a year till the trail.

        Even if the court slap his hands after a conviction he going to be incarcerated for year. If he's lucky his wife will wait for him, chances are she won't. So by the time he gets out he'll be homeless, broke and divorced with child support due. I don't have a lot of sympathy for him after readi

    • by billcopc (196330)

      Death is too good for this slime. Rape is too good for this slime. I say toss him in a cell with Sanford Wallace and let them duke it out. Oh, I forgot to mention, cut off their limbs first so we're left with two screaming torsos.

      Yeah.

    • by bieber (998013)
      I would never wish such things on a person, but I am genuinely surprised that none of his burned customers ever tracked him down and beat him. You would think that ripping people off that blatantly when they can get a hold of your real name would be more dangerous...
  • From Borker to Borkee...

  • by Constantin (765902) on Tuesday December 07, 2010 @09:07PM (#34482082)

    ... and hey, it's nothing more than an online article, I say good riddance. Threatening folk repeatedly with bodily harm, impersonating them to credit card companies, etc. should be a fast-pass lane to being disbarred from operating a business and going to jail without passing go and without collecting $200.

    What troubled me about Mr. Borkers story more than anything is how easily he circumvented the various red-flag tripwires that credit card companies allegedly employ. And the allegation that he successfully impersonated a customer withdrawing a claim against him shows not only chutzpah but a big security hole over at the credit card company.

    Bottom line is that the internet has allowed all sorts of scams to go nationwide and unless one can interest the Feds (via publicity in this case), one is SOL. Thus, he may serve as a business blueprint for a lot more scammers going forward.

    • by MightyMartian (840721) on Tuesday December 07, 2010 @09:19PM (#34482176) Journal

      As far as the credit card company is concerned, I suspect intentional gullibility. "Oh really, Mrs. So-and-so, it's odd that you sound like a man, but you said the magic words 'I'm dropping the request to reverse the charges', and that's good enough for us."

      If all it takes to nix a credit card holder's attempt to reverse charges is a phone call saying "I'm so-and-so", then there's a serious problem with verification of identity.

      • by Pharmboy (216950)

        "Oh really, Mrs. So-and-so, it's odd that you sound like a man, but you said the magic words 'I'm dropping the request to reverse the charges', and that's good enough for us."

        I don't know about your credit card holder, but I have to enter a fair amount of data to prove I am who I say I am with American Express. I am pretty sure you can't just call up an 800 number and say "this is sally johnson, forget about reversing the charges on card number 1234..." and have them take it sincerely.

        • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Tuesday December 07, 2010 @10:20PM (#34482528) Homepage

          I have to enter a fair amount of data to prove I am who I say I am with American Express

          Right... and most of that information is available to an online retailer once you've made a purchase. Home address, phone numbers, legal name, heck you could easily ask for a DOB even though it's not required, and most people will blindly enter it. That pretty much covers most identity questions, and a simple "friendly" phone call can fill in a few other blanks like spouse's name, stuff like that. If credit cards were even borderline secure, I'd still have one. I prefer cash, because if someones screws with my cash, they have to be within pummeling distance, and that's the kind of security I like.

          • Just need to point out that, even if a credit card company asks for information, it doesn't mean they verify it. I had my identity stolen. The thief used my name, address, SSN and DOB to open up a Capital One credit card account. They put in the wrong Mother's Maiden Name, but that apparently didn't raise any red flags. Neither did them immediately changing the address to one in a different state or requesting a $5,000 cash withdrawal before the card was activated. Oh, and when I called to report the f

    • by E IS mC(Square) (721736) on Tuesday December 07, 2010 @09:25PM (#34482226) Journal

      >> What troubled me about Mr. Borkers story more than anything is how easily he circumvented the various red-flag tripwires that credit card companies allegedly employ.

      More than that, what took it so long to nail him? There has been over 200 complaints filed with FTC against him, but it had to be reported by NYT for the US attorney to wake up?

    • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

      This should make you feel real good about your credit card security:

      http://www.zug.com/pranks/visa/index.html [zug.com]

      It's a few years old now, but I don't think things have changed all that much in this arena.

      • by Inda (580031)
        That's not the first time I read that and it still amuses me.

        I always spell my mother's maiden name differently; sometimes with two Bs, sometimes with two Ts and, as she's been married more than once, I sometimes use a different name.

        I don't think I've ever been rejected from a website for using the wrong name.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 07, 2010 @09:18PM (#34482160)

    The cyberpolice backtraced him, and consequences will never be the same!

  • by mikestew (1483105) on Tuesday December 07, 2010 @09:24PM (#34482214) Homepage

    I don't mean to play anonymous Internet tough guy here, but I'm really surprised that someone who tells customers with a legitimate complain "I know where you live" still has full use of both knee caps. I would have thought by now he would have pissed off the wrong person who happens to be within driving distance. Then again, when it comes to the stacks of money he's making, maybe he's full of shit and doesn't have that many customers to piss off.

    • by bieber (998013)
      I was wondering the same thing after reading the article. My guess is that he probably has body guards who deal at his level of shadiness...
    • by Dutch Gun (899105)

      I think he simply banks on the likelyhood that his customers are not sociopaths (unlike him), and prefer to go through the proper channels of authority when confronted by clearly illegal and threatening behavior.

      Yeah, I hear you though. I got pretty steamed reading that story. Part of me does sometimes wish someone would take matters into their own hand and turn his kneecaps into jello, but that course of action rarely ends well, even in the movies.

      About the best you can say about the authorities is, appa

    • by Eil (82413) on Wednesday December 08, 2010 @12:27AM (#34483348) Homepage Journal

      Three points:

      1) He lived in NYC, where being a humongous dickhead is basically the norm, especially in business. (I know some very nice people from NYC, but I've been there before and I've done business there, so I'm not just reciting a tired stereotype.)

      2) I would guess that the demographic of people buying glasses over the internet via their computers are not usually the violent type.

      3) When someone this batshit-crazy harasses and threatens you, your self-preservation mechanism tells you to just call it a loss and stay as far away as possible.

    • I'm not surprised at all. While this is an extreme example, it remains standard practice.

      The system, and by that I mean, "ALL HUMAN CULTURE" is designed to allow psychopaths to ply their trade. We are pre-programmed to let this kind of shit go, to avoid it, to assume that the aggressor really IS the victim. We think, "Nobody would behave so utterly contrary to the unspoken social laws which govern the tribe, therefore we must be perceiving this incorrectly." The bigger the lie, the easier the sell. It'

  • by RJarett (114128) on Tuesday December 07, 2010 @09:29PM (#34482262)

    Every electronics/camera store in Brooklyn has been doing this for decades. They are all scammers and conartists.

    Shanties and warehouses, or fake addresses, but websites with greymarket and fake products.

    Examples of the stores im talking about:
    http://donwiss.com/pictures/BrooklynStores/ [donwiss.com]

    The FTC has done nothing about it.

    People place products thinking they can get it cheaper, and then when they talk to the store the sales people scream and cuss at them if they don't buy addons they "must" buy (like power cords and batteries).

    For every 1 reputable company based in NYC and NJ there are hundreds which are ran y petty criminals.

    • by jginspace (678908)

      People place products thinking they can get it cheaper, and then when they talk to the store the sales people scream and cuss at them if they don't buy addons they "must" buy (like power cords and batteries).

      For every 1 reputable company based in NYC and NJ there are hundreds which are ran y petty criminals.

      aah ... brings back memories of tsim sha tsui, kowloon. folks spending two whole days of their vacation getting yelled at and insulted so they can save $50 on a camera.

    • I think most people who actually buy any quantity of photo equipment online, who want to shop at a camera store (not a "we got everything" place like Amazon), and who have been in the game for a while eventually restrict their purchases to B&H PhotoVideo, Adorama, and maybe J&R. For high-end product, there's Calumet. There are also a few specialty shops (I really miss Zone VI) and some used dealers (e.g. Keh).

      That's about it.

      Those thousands of other shops that you've never heard of but who offer s

  • One of the wonderful things about the internet, is that it's restoring some of the accountability that we once had when living in small communities where most people knew each other. For a pretty long time, if an unscrupulous vendor screwed you over, your only options were either to sue them (expensive) or hope that your local government would punish them for you or your local TV "consumer beat" reporter would find your story interesting enough to give it some air time.

    Today though, it's amazingly easy to

    • by theNAM666 (179776)

      Expensive? It costs me exactly $25 to file small claims in my locality. Long-arm jurisdiction means I can sue any vendor in the US who operates in my county. Maximum amount is $3500. If they don't show up, they lose. What's expensive about this?

  • I'm happy this happened. When this story was earlier on /. I was asking where are the police in all of this.....threats of sexual assault and "I'm watching you" accompanied by photos of one's house are quite disturbing.
  • by davek (18465) on Tuesday December 07, 2010 @10:42PM (#34482666) Homepage Journal

    He is being charged with cyberstalking, wire fraud, mail fraud, and making interstate threats, and faces up to 50 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

    FIFTY YEARS? Holy crap. I am so glad I got out of SEO. Shady, shady business is that industry.

  • I recall the article said that her complaints were originally ignored by the police. It takes the NYT to shame your authorities into action?

  • Over 100 replies and not one person has commented on the fact that clearly Citibank have crap security procedures. According to the article they first accept somebody claiming to be the credit card holder without authentication and then won't re-open the claim after they've been told they've been suckered. Glad I'm not an account holder with those muppets.
  • I think Vitaly will find that intimidating federal prison inmates won't be as easy as intimidating the young ladies. Especially with a pussy name like "Vitaly." I forsee mouth-rape in his near future.

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