TAMPA — Hidden cameras found in two Bulgarian women's apartment were not transmitting or recording images when deputies found them, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office announced Friday.
The Sheriff's Office has closed its investigation, saying there was no evidence the cameras were hooked up to anything.
"The girls were crying when they heard the news," said their attorney, Mark Wright. "They didn't understand it. This should not have happened to them."
When a deputy first arrived at the subleased Westchase area apartment in July, Vanya Samokovareva, 22, and Ralitsa Dzhambazova, 23, were upset about tiny cameras they had found in smoke detectors and motion sensors.
They suspected their landlord — Nadir Punjani, who also uses the name Raj Armani — had set up some elaborate camera system, according to a lawsuit the women filed Wednesday.
The deputy followed the wires to a locked closet, but when they opened it, the camera wires didn't appear to be connected to anything, said sheriff's Detective Larry McKinnon.
The Sheriff's Office has previously reported that between the deputies' first inspection and second a day later, some of the electronic equipment had been removed. However, that did not affect the investigation because the first investigation didn't reveal any evidence of a crime, McKinnon said. The only thing that had been taken was a television, McKinnon said. He said the Sheriff's Office doesn't know why cameras had been hidden.
"But from the evidence we had, from the time deputies got there, they were never capable of recording," he said.
Detectives did find evidence that Punjani — or someone using his e-mail account — had posted an ad on Craigslist, requesting assistance installing hidden cameras that would have playback and remote viewing capability, a sheriff's report states.
From the start, Punjani, 32, has declined to comment.
Wright said the Sheriff's Office determination about the case doesn't help the women's lawsuit, but it doesn't defeat it.
Earlier this week, they filed a petition for injunction. They also sued for invasion of privacy, negligence, breach of contract and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Times staff writer Dan Sullivan contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at (813) 226-3433 or firstname.lastname@example.org.