South Florida

Miami socialite fleeced online retailer for 69 designer handbags worth $135,000, feds say

Meghana Rajadhyaksha, of Miami, poses after winning the Longines Prize for Elegance fashion contest on Longines Kentucky Oaks Day, Friday, May 4, 2018, at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.  Longines, the Swiss watch manufacturer known for its luxury timepieces, was the Official Watch and Timekeeper of the 144th annual Kentucky Derby.
Meghana Rajadhyaksha, of Miami, poses after winning the Longines Prize for Elegance fashion contest on Longines Kentucky Oaks Day, Friday, May 4, 2018, at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.  Longines, the Swiss watch manufacturer known for its luxury timepieces, was the Official Watch and Timekeeper of the 144th annual Kentucky Derby. AP

A designer bag for every occasion.

Or so it seemed for Miami socialite Meghana Rajadhyaksha.

She bought 69 handbags by Fendi, Gucci and other famous designer brands worth about $135,000 over a 17-month span, the feds say.

The online shopping spree stopped in early April when Rajadhyaksha was arrested and charged with fraud by federal prosecutors. They say the 39-year-old society maven exchanged designer knockoffs for the real luxury handbags to obtain full refunds from e-commerce retailer T.J. Maxx and then sold 10 of the actual bags through a consignment outlet in New Jersey, The RealReal — pocketing about $11,000 for herself.

New details of the scheme were revealed in a so-called information charging Rajadhyaksha with three counts of committing mail fraud and one count of selling stolen goods between November 2017 and March 2019. She pleaded not guilty to the charges last week, but court records show she plans to change her plea to guilty before U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro at the end of May.

“Meghana is accepting full responsibility for her actions, and she is actively pursuing efforts to make T.J. Maxx whole for their losses,” her defense attorney, Christopher Lyons, told the Miami Herald Friday. “She is voluntarily in therapy seeking professional help.”

Rajadhyaksha, who lives with her physician husband in Coral Gables, faces possible prison time. She will also have to pay back T.J. Maxx for whatever the judge determines to be the actual losses and have to forfeit the original handbags bought from the e-commerce retailer.

“Meghana Rajadhyaksha kept all of the luxury items that T.J. Maxx shipped to her residence,” the information says. “The retail value of those luxury items was $134,719.22.” The charging document doesn’t say where she obtained the alleged counterfeit handbags to exchange for the original ones, but sources familiar with the Secret Service case say she bought those knockoffs online, too.

The information also points out that Rajadhyaksha bought “one pair of luxury boots” from T.J. Maxx, but it did not indicate the designer name.

Rajadhyaksha — who was often photographed with a designer handbag at fund-raising events at Vizcaya, the Faena Forum and the Pérez Art Museum Miami — spent one night in a federal lockup after being arrested in early April at her waterfront home. She was released on a $250,000 bond.

Rajadhyaksha, whose husband, Amar Dilip Rajadhyaksha, is an orthopedic surgeon, regularly hobnobbed with the high-society crowd in Miami. Last June, she attended the birthday luncheon of the Miami Herald’s former “Queen of the Night” columnist, publicist Tara Solomon, at the Faena Hotel in Miami Beach. The dress code for Solomon’s birthday party at the glamorous hotel’s Los Fuegos restaurant was leopard, with guests wearing a variety of animal prints. Rajadhyaksha was among Solomon’s group of 30 guests, according to one published report.

Rajadhyaksha, who moved to Miami from Detroit and owned a motel, appeared on the radar of retailer T.J. Maxx in November 2017, according to a criminal complaint. Company investigators suspected her of committing fraud by ordering high-end handbags on its e-commerce website, using PayPal for the credit-card purchases, and then returning the expensive merchandise for refunds over and over again, the complaint says.

The retailer conducted its own investigation and then alerted the U.S. Secret Service, which specializes in counterfeit probes.

“Rajadhyaksha has placed dozens of orders for and received original handbags, which were later returned with substitute handbags to trigger refunds to [her],” says the Secret Service complaint, which was filed by prosecutor Stephanie Hauser this week.

Last year, T.J. Maxx investigators began carefully monitoring her orders of fancy handbags, including a Dolce and Gabbana Welcome Handbag with Painted Flowers, priced at $2,000.

Before shipping the merchandise to her $1.7 million home in the Riviera section of Coral Gables, T.J. Maxx investigators marked the handbags with ultraviolet ink that would not be visible to the naked eye without a black light, the complaint says. The retailer’s investigators soon discovered that Rajadhyaksha repeatedly returned the merchandise with the T.J. Maxx tags to obtain refunds, but the handbags did not have the UV ink marking.

The investigators kept track of dozens of requests for refunds, but the bags returned by Rajadhyaksha were counterfeit, the retailer says in the complaint.

In March, T.J. Maxx joined forces with the Secret Service to zero in on her in an undercover operation. On March 13, a Secret Service agent dressed as a UPS agent delivered the three handbags — Valentino, Gucci and Fendi — to Rajadhyaksha’s Coral Gables home, the complaint says. That afternoon, she went to the UPS store on South Dixie Highway in Coral Gables and shipped the merchandise back to T.J. Maxx, video surveillance footage shows.

Two days later, when the handbags were received at T.J. Maxx’s e-commerce center in Tennessee, investigators found that she returned counterfeit handbags instead of the actual merchandise to obtain her refunds.



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