Feds Arrest Online Seller Who Tried To Drive Up Google Ranking By Scaring People

Pushing the “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” mentality to the extreme, an online retailer allegedly stalked and threatened customers in order to boost his search engine visibility. The seller reportedly went to such extremes that federal authorities stepped in and arrested him on charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, making interstate threats and cyberstalking.

The New York Times reports the man, who sold eyeglasses online, threatened sexual assault against a customer and sent her a picture of her front door to intimidate her. The Times had reported earlier that the reason for the seller’s behavior, other than outright creepiness, was to generate bad buzz to boost his profile on Google search engine rankings.

Google responded by announcing it has changed its algorithm, causing searches to bury companies that provide customers with “an extremely poor user experience.”

Threatening Online Seller Arrested [The New York Times]

Google Fixes Algorithm So Harassing Your Customers Doesn’t Boost Your Page Rank
Harassing Customers As A Business Model


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  1. APriusAndAGrill says:

    “and sent her a picture of her front door to intimidate her.”

    3 to 1 says this was done with Google Earth Street View.

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      GESV is amazing. My brother just moved into a newly built house a month ago, and the address is already in Google. Of course, Street View shows a completely naked lot (seriously, so flat, dry, and grassless it literally reflects light), but it is there and I can use it to drive to his house in a couple weeks.

    • Taed says:

      According to the seller in the original article, it was.

    • Apple Brown Betty White says:

      It was, according to Borker in the original NYT article. And, surprisingly, I don’t think he lied about anything in the article, and I suspect he’s telling the truth here too. He was a lazy cyberstalker.

      But it sounds scarier to report that he sent a “photo of her house” doesn’t it? Ahh… nonbiased reporting ftw.

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        But it sounds scarier to report that he sent a “photo of her house” doesn’t it?

        It’s also accurate given that’s exactly what he did.

        If this guy had decided to go through on his threat would it have mattered that the photo was found online? His point was that he knew where she lived and if he used Google Earth to get the photo then that’s true.

        I don’t think it’s smart to wait until the violent stalker is literally stabbing you to be concerned about their threats.

    • APriusAndAGrill says:

      I cant find it saying anything about google earth…. who knows, i am a horrible skimmer.

      Google earth SV showed us that our house once had some kinda plant disease and recently lost most of its bushes and trees.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      It really doesn’t matter how legitimate his stalking was. He was still making threatening actions. A threat is still illegal, even if it holds no water.

      Unless you believe a bomb threat is no big deal because, hey, I never actually had a bomb.

      • macruadhi says:

        Actually yes, I do believe that if one has no means to commit a crime, then there is no crime. Call in a bomb threat and no bomb is found, the investigation ends there. Unless you want to pursue charges related to harassing people over the phone. But then use laws already on the books, don’t make up new laws just for a given situation.

        • Coyoty says:

          In that case, you have wasted responder resources and put the public in danger by reporting your non-crime. The responders trying to find your bomb are not available to save people who really need them, and taxpayer money is spent needlessly, or donated time and money if the services are volunteer. By you threatening to commit a crime, you have put lives in danger and squandered other people’s money, and you can easily go to jail for it, regardless of whether you follow through.

      • macruadhi says:

        Actually yes, I do believe that if one has no means to commit a crime, then there is no crime. Call in a bomb threat and no bomb is found, the investigation ends there. Unless you want to pursue charges related to harassing people over the phone. But then use laws already on the books, don’t make up new laws just for a given situation.

        • mythago says:

          So you really believe that if you say to a bank teller “Give me all your cash or I’ll pull a gun out of my pocket and shoot you”, that it’s perfectly legal as long as you don’t have a gun?

    • kathyl says:

      Even if it was *obviously* from any one of the many ways you can find pictures like this online, it’s still a reminder to the person he sent it to that he knows where they live. “I still have your address. Does this look familiar?”

      The guy was a bully and a criminal. I don’t think him sending a reminder that he could go to his customer’s houses and assault them (and seemed willing to do so) was that much less scary because he got the pictures from the internet rather than traveling there and taking pictures himself. He wasn’t saying, “I’m right here and I’m going to kill you,” he was reminding them that he had all of the information he needed in order to do that.

    • midwestkel says:

      I don’t know, in the article the guy said he lived and worked in the same city so he could of easily snapped a pic of her front door.

    • mythago says:

      So what?

  2. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    25 years in sing-sing, just to make some money off knock-off glasses?

    Which of us is the sucker again? I keep losing track.

    • ellemdee says:

      The sad part is, for every one that gets in trouble, 100 others get away with it. This guy just got way too aggressive and way to cocky.

  3. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Oh how the mighty (assholes) have fallen.

  4. Shadowfire says:

    If this hadn’t made the news, would he have been arrested? I mean, it sounds like this should have happened a long time ago.

  5. tedyc03 says:

    Good fucking riddance.

  6. nopirates says:

    his web site decormyeyes.com is still up appears to be taking orders

    strangely, you have to enter an email address just to add something to your cart

  7. sirwired says:

    “He appeared grief-stricken and on the verge of tears”… the time to be sorry is BEFORE you get written up in the New York Times, pal. He’s sorry he got CAUGHT.

    • sirwired says:

      Scratch that… the time to be sorry is before you VOLUNTEER to be written up in the New York Times. He was quite the eager interview subject. What a moron.

    • daemonaquila says:

      Oddly, I think you may be wrong. We have a growing social problem (perhaps a new mental illness to catalog in the DSM-IV?) where people have become Internet thugs and can/will/WANT to do things to people that they could never do if they ever met the person face to face. These people get a huge power trip out of nastiness and bullying, which when taken to an extreme looks like what this guy has been doing. When he had to see her in a courtroom, his ability to dissociate her from his faceless Internet victim evaporated. Not that it excuses what he did one damned iota, but I think he may have really meant it under the circumstances. I think we’ll see more of this phenomenon in the future.

  8. galm666 says:

    The comic value of this is limitless. I also find it funny that this guy thought he could get away with any number of rather serious violations at the federal, state, and possibly local level.

    Hah. Better get some KY.

  9. Jason says:

    First case of its kind. He’ll get off on some technicality as the Feds will be using archaic laws to prosecute.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Cyberstalking, mail and wire fraud are new crimes?

      • Jason says:

        If he just screen captured from google maps street view, is that really cyber stalking? From the original article, it sounds like he re-sold goods he bought on ebay. He’ll claim he is a victim just as much as his customers. I don’t see a case for mail and wire fraud. He did send merch. Most of it seems like it should be handled in a civil court between he and the customer as our laws aren’t really equipped.

        • shangyle says:

          I agree. They would have to be able to prove he was actually outside her house for assault. If it was done with Street View it wasn’t an “eminent threat.” They could probably get him for harassment or intentional affliction of emotional distress.

          Being a terrible businessman isn’t illegal, neither is being an asshole. That said…

          If he was intentionally getting people to add items to their cart and selling them something he didn’t actually have, then canceling the order and not refunding, they may be able to nail him for that.

        • sirwired says:

          He made threatening phone calls and e-mail, that will be more than enough. Combined with the fact that it was done in response to mailing counterfeit goods, the feds have an open-and-shut case. The fact that he might claim he didn’t know they were counterfeit isn’t going to help, as the threats kind of make a lot of that moot.

  10. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    “He was arrested early Monday by agents of the United States Postal Inspection Service. “

    Ok, I’m all for the U.S. Postal Service to remain self-funded, but WTF? There isn’t another enforcement agency that can arrest him? And who are these “Inspection Service” anyway? Somehow I imagine a mailroom version of the Expendables.

    • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

      Actually, it reminded me more of the ginger psychopath from Dead Rising 2 >_>; But that’s just me.

    • daemonaquila says:

      I like your version better, but actually they do have enforcement agents for mail fraud. They’re pretty good at that end of the business.

    • Ouze says:

      …. are you actually complaining that the organization charged with making arrests in cases of US mail fraud have acted against a man who commits fraud solely through the US mail?

      O RLY?

  11. dragonfire81 says:

    and I can about guarantee this guy will start shopping around a book deal as soon as he gets the chance to.

  12. PSUSkier says:

    Am I the only one that’s kind of pissed that it took an article in the New York Times to get the fuzz to act? It seems like complaints have been building against him for quite some time…..

  13. daemonaquila says:

    Awesomesauce! I hope he has a long vacation in federal prison with some mega-spammers and prescription drug counterfeiters.

  14. Dr.Wang says:

    Only in New York City, where rude was invented.

    • galm666 says:

      Good thing this wasn’t in Texas. He’d try threatening Tex with coming to his house only to be greeted by Tex and a few of his buddies who just “happened” to be hanging out to watch the game and just “happened” to be working on their firearms of choice.

  15. Helicomatic says:

    Could Consumerist please note when they link to something behind a paywall?

  16. peebozi says:

    If you’re a private individual and need the feds to prosecute someone you simply need the NY Times to write an article AND have the villain admit and gloat about their deeds.

    If you’re a corporation this does not apply as you already own the government and they will do what you tell them to do.

  17. TonyK says:

    About time. why does law enforcement make it so difficult to file complaints about online transactions? Especially where clear proof is being provided. Yet it seems nothing is done until the media gets involved.

  18. feistydonut says:

    My coworker bought glasses from him last summer, and had the same harassment problems. She paid via google checkout and then started seeing all the bad reviews and canceled the order within 24 hours. He started emailing and threatening her. She forwarded all of his messages to the bbb, fbi, google checkout and whoever else and then blocked his email address and did a chargeback. She got her money back partly I think because she sent info from all the bad reviews of him being a scam.

  19. sopmodm14 says:

    good for consumers !

    unscrupulous ppl beware !!

  20. stevied says:

    Brooklyn…… bad behavior…..

    One must wonder if this business is also a camera store?

  21. krom says:

    Every time I see a story like this, with a crazy or stupid person running a business, I ask myself, how did this crazy/stupid bastard manage to start a business in the first place? What other crazy/stupid person gave this crazy bastard seed money?

    With so many stupid and insane people running businesses, I start to think that the only way to start a business is to be stupid and/or insane.

    Which would conveniently explain why I’ve yet to start a business.

  22. Portlandia says:

    From the Article:
    “A far more subdued version of Mr. Borker appeared in court on Monday afternoon. Dressed in jeans and a button-down shirt, he said little. When he was led away by court officers, he turned to look at his wife, who was sitting in the courtroom. He appeared grief stricken and on the verge of tears.

    “Sorry,” he whispered to her, as he was escorted through a side door. “

    Boo fucking Hoo for you!

  23. lucky13 says:

    Apparently there is a god…who knew?

  24. xr1ddl3rx says:

    LMFAO!!!! There’s something in the NY water man, i’m telling you. Some serious psychos here. LOL you can’t make this stuff up.

  25. FrugalFreak says:

    So who are the 100 less than stellar reps indicated by google?