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Crime News

Trial Begins For Russian Woman Accused Of Poisoning Lookalike Friend With Cheesecake In Identity Theft Scheme

Prosecutors assert that Russian-born Viktoria Nasyrova left a trove of DNA evidence when she allegedly tried to poison eyelash tech Olga Tsvyk with tainted cheesecake to steal her identity.

By Christina Coulter
Killer Motive: What Drives People To Kill?

The trial for a woman accused of trying to poison her lookalike friend with laced cheesecake as part of an identity theft plot began in the New York borough of Queens on Monday. 

Prosecutors alleged in their opening statements that Russian-born Viktoria Nasyrova, 45, left a trail of DNA evidence that implicated her in the attempted murder of Olga Tsvyk and smiled about the allegations in jailhouse TV interviews.

Assistant District Attorney Konstantinos Litourgis said Nasyrova targeted Tsvyk, a Ukrainian-born eyelash technician, because “she was desperate never to return to Russia.” Both Nasyrova and Tsvyk had dark hair, similar skin complexion and could speak Russian.

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Nasyrova allegedly visited Tsvyk at her home in Queens to have her correct an eyelash issue in August of 2016, Litourgis said.

The attorney, as seen in CBS New York video, said that Nasyrova brought cheesecake laced with the tranquilizer Phenazepam, a potentially fatal drug found only in Russia.

A friend testified that Tsvyk was found passed out and surrounded by pills by paramedics after her appointment with Nasyrova.

Prosecutors allege that when police arrested Nasyrova, she had Tsvyk’s passport with her.

Nasyrova’s past has become media fodder since her 2016 arrest. Called a “Russian nesting doll of crime” by the New York Post, the 41-year-old became a fugitive in her home country after allegedly murdering a woman. The victim’s slumped-over body was spotted by traffic cameras buckled into the front seat of Nasyrova’s vehicle in October of 2014 and later recovered two miles from Nasyrova’s home in Krasnodar.

Prosecutors said that Nasyrova, who was living in Brooklyn, was on police radar before Tsvyk’s alleged poisoning, suspected of drugging at least three men in Brooklyn that she’d met on dating websites and robbing them once they'd passed out.

“She’s a con artist who meets people online through a dating site and then drugs them at some point, and takes their property from them and flees,” NYPD Chief of Detectives Bob Boyce previously told NBC New York.

“She embarked on a life of crime here, and we don’t have the whole story yet. We only have bits and pieces.”

In May of 2016, Nasyrova was arrested for stealing two furs worth $532 from a Century 21 store, but was not flagged as an international fugitive at the time.

Then, in 2019, Nasyrova pleaded guilty to attempted larceny in Brooklyn Supreme Court following other allegations that she had drugged and robbed men she had met on dating apps, Fox News reported.

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Litourgis painted a picture for jurors on Monday of what they could expect throughout the court case, according to Fox News.

"The DNA that was on that container [of cheesecake] belongs to Viktoria Nasyrova," Litourgis said in his opening statements.

"So on top of everything you’re going to hear from civilian witnesses, you’re going to learn that there’s a cheesecake container that had [tranquilizer] Phenazepam in it and also had the defendant’s DNA on it."

In jailhouse interviews, Litourgis said, Nasyrova appeared to show no remorse for her actions.

“She was asked this specific question: ‘There is a woman named Olga who looks a lot like you who said that you poisoned her with a piece of cheesecake in order to steal her identity,’” he explained, referring to Nasyrova’s 2017 interview with “48 Hours.”  

“You know what this defendant did when she was asked that question? She smiled. And you know what her answer was? ‘I can tell you I know this person. I know who you mean. I did not force her to eat the cheesecake.’”

Tsvyk testified against Nasyrova at the Monday hearing, telling jurors that the Russian defendant had been her client for six months before the attack. She recalled that Nasyrova walked all the way from her home in Brooklyn to her home in Queens for their appointment that day.

“She told me, ‘I’m right now in Brooklyn. I want to bring you some famous cheesecake from a famous bakery.’ I told her, Viktoria, that’s not needed, just come over,” Tsvyk said.

Nasyrova ate two slices of the cheesecake upon arriving at the eyelash technician’s home, offering Tsvyk a third slice. Twenty minutes afterward, Tsvyk said, she began to feel ill.

“I started to lie down on the bed. I started to look for a pillow. I was realizing that I was losing consciousness and I said to her, ‘Vika, I’m feeling really bad.’ I started feeling very nauseous. I wanted to vomit. I started vomiting right by my bed onto the floor,” she recalled on Monday.

When Tsvyk passed out, prosecutors alleged, Nasyrova stole her Ukrainian passport, her U.S.-issued employment authorization card, $4,000 in cash and valuables — which, according to Litourgis, included a “cherished ring” and a red purse. Then, she scattered pills around Tsvyk’s body to make the incident appear like a suicide, they said.

“Everything was done in this case very carefully and very methodically by this defendant — not only did she poison Olga in order to impersonate her, she also staged her bedroom to make it look like a suicide,” Litourgis said.

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In court, Tsvyk appeared relieved to be leaving the courtroom, according to the Daily Mail, telling reporters that she was feeling “not good” following her statements.

Meanwhile, Nasyrova kept a neutral disposition, the Mail reported, but appeared to be smiling and speaking to someone behind her in photos taken that day.

The prosecution plans to call on another witness claiming that Nasyrova poisoned them, Litourgis said — a man she met on a Russian dating site that allegedly woke up in a hospital three days after the woman served him fish and vegetables.

“His symptoms almost mirrored that of Olga’s,” the attorney said, noting that the male victim’s wallet and cash had been stolen.

Tsvyk told the New York Daily News that the day after she was allegedly poisoned by Nasyrova’s cheesecake, the accused con artist attempted to kill her again with tainted chicken broth. It's unclear whether this allegation will be brought up in trial.

“She wanted to kill me,” Tsvyk, 37 at the time of the 2018 interview, said. “She was not sure the poison stayed in me because I threw up.”

But Nasyrova’s attorney, Christopher Hoyt, told jurors that the case was not “open-and-shut.”

“We are here today because Ms. Nasyrova is not guilty of these charges,” he said.

“You get your popcorn, you get your candy, you get your drinks. You get your best movie theater seat — and we’ve all had that experience where the movie did not live up to the hype.”

“This story was not the way it was portrayed in the trailer. The movie is lacking. It did not deliver as promised. I submit to you that that is how the government’s case will be.”

Nasyrova faces up to 25 years in prison if she is convicted of attempted murder, burglary, unlawful imprisonment and a litany of other charges against her.