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Equipment taken from apartment after voyeurism complaint

Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2013 at 04:04 PM

A voyeurism investigation won't be hampered by the removal of equipment from the apartment of two Bulgarian women who reported finding hidden cameras there, a Hillsborough sheriff's spokesman said.

Someone entered the apartment and removed a cable box and router from a closet after the women called authorities but before a sheriff's detective arrived to collect the equipment, investigators said.

Sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon said the equipment was taken Tuesday while the women, in the United States on a work visa, were at their jobs.

Roommates Vanya Samokovareva, 22, and Ralista Dzhambasova, 23, reported finding the concealed cameras in the bedrooms, bathroom and living room of their Westchase apartment. The cameras resembled smoke detectors and motion sensors, they said.

Authorities are trying to determine who may have placed the cameras there and what – if anything – may have been viewed or recorded.

About the same time the women called authorities, they also notified the media, McKinnon said, and that likely tipped off the owner of the equipment to the investigation.

"While they were at work," McKinnon said, referring to the women, "somebody came in – and we don't know if they had authorization to come in – and took the router but not the cameras."

The detective confiscated the cameras, McKinnon said.

McKinnon said the missing router won't affect the investigation because responding patrol deputies photographed the box and router, and the photos show serial numbers.

"We got good pictures of them," McKinnon said of the equipment.

Tracking down the owner should not be much of a problem unless the equipment was purchased at a flea market or from a private individual, he said.

Whoever removed the equipment from the apartment could be charged with tampering with evidence, he said.

Samokovareva and Dzhambasova said they moved in late May to the subleased unit at the Tuscany Bay apartment complex off Countryway Boulevard but weren't aware of any cameras until this week.

The apartment is leased to a local businessman, who is also the women's immigration sponsor, deputies said.

The women said they initially used an agency in Bulgaria to find housing and get jobs at a restaurant, but instead found work as models. After losing those jobs, they found work at the Wing House on Hillsborough Avenue.

Although the voyeurism complaint may result only in misdemeanor charges, detectives are taking the case seriously, he said.

"The fact that somebody put hidden cameras in somebody's apartment," he said, "well, it's just a horrible, horrible invasion of privacy."

kmorelli@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7760