Thursday, August 19th 2010, 4:00 AM
Espada claims he sent the designer duds back, citing defective merchandise in a legal duel over the tab playing out in Manhattan Civil Court.
A smiling Espada (D-Bronx) - flashing the thumbs up - is wearing one of the high-priced suits in the photo on this page taken this month, Rajkumar insists.
"He says he doesn't have them and he's wearing them," an incredulous Rajkumar said as he pointed to the picture when the Daily News showed it to him yesterday.
Rajkumar then pulled out a bolt of shiny blue material from swank designer Giorgio Armani.
"See this fabric?" he asked, motioning to the picture. "That's what that suit is made of."
Espada scoffed at the notion.
"The facts are obviously in my favor or else he wouldn't be trying to try this in the media," Espada said.
Rajkumar, owner of Custom Men in midtown, said he made and delivered Espada's $1,200-a-piece suits last year without taking an upfront payment or deposit - never believing a man of the senator's stature would stiff him.
"I'm a small tailor, usually I don't do this, but I thought that he's a senator, where's he going to run away?" Rajkumar rationalized. "That was my biggest mistake."
Now he describes Espada as a customer who wanted to dress in Armani and Oscar de la Renta fabrics without paying a dime. "He was very happy with the way everything turned out and he said he would mail us a check upon delivery," he said.
The suits were delivered four weeks later. When Rajkumar called to seek payment, Espada's assistant said the senator needed them altered.
Rajkumar told the aide to send them back for a fix - but they never arrived, Rajkumar said. He added that Espada's team refused to provide any shipment tracking number.
Rajkumar later referred the matter to a collection agency, which sued Espada, an action first reported yesterday by The Village Voice.
"In this economy, $7,200 is a big hit," Rajkumar said.
Espada insists the case has no merit "and we will prove that."
The senator wouldn't talk about the threads. "We'll deal with the facts in court," he said.
Espada's Democratic primary foe Gustavo Rivera pounced on the burgeoning suit scandal, noting it "kind of goes to the character of the man - or lack thereof."
The controversies swirling around Espada have prompted former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer to back Rivera, The News has learned. Ferrer will make his support official today.