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Sunday, Jun 24, 2018
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Former Tampa businessman sues women who accused him of voyeurism

TAMPA — A former cafe owner accused making secret video recordings of two Bulgarian women he'd hired as waitresses has turned the tables and is suing his accusers, saying they ruined his business and his reputation to get publicity.

Two years ago, the women, Ralitsa Dzambazova and Vanya Samokovareva, sued Nadir Punjani, who also goes by the name of Raj Armani, and his companies Bollywood Cafe-Tampa, Bollywood Cafe-Westchase and Pizza Babe, claiming the cameras were an invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

But days later, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office concluded a criminal case was unfounded and declined to press charges.

“There was no evidence that a crime was committed … because there is no proof of any type of imaging device,” according to a sheriff's office media release.

The investigation revealed there were cameras installed in the rooms but they were not connected to anything, deputies said. Also, there were no transmitting or recording devices capable of recording or capturing any images from the cameras.

The women had signed a modeling contract with Punjani, who rented them the apartment after hiring them to work in his cafe.

Though the sheriff's office dropped the case, it did come up with evidence that Punjani had placed ads on Craigslist looking for someone to install cameras in the apartment, according to a report.

The women's lawsuit alleged that Punjani placed them in a hotel for a couple of days, claiming their apartment was not yet ready. Dzambazova and Samokovareva discovered the cameras in July.

The cameras were hidden in smoke detectors and motion detectors throughout the apartment, including in their bedroom and bathroom.

The women's lawsuit was put on hold after Punjani filed for bankruptcy.

Punjani says in a lawsuit he filed last week that he fired the women for misconduct and insubordination, but the women refused to vacate the apartment he was renting to them as part of their employment. After being fired, the women “made false statements about Bollywood Cafe and Pizza Babe and Madir Punjani to (the) press for personal gain and fame,” Punjani says in the lawsuit. He also accuses them of breaching a confidentiality clause of a contract they signed.

Punjani said he ultimately had to close his business, losing more than $300,000.

“Over 15 people lost their jobs and livelihood due to false statements made by the defendants to the press,” the lawsuit states.

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Twitter: @ElaineTBO

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