The story of the fake heiress, Mar-a-Lago and an
SALLAH AND JONATHAN D. SILVER, POST-GAZETTE
HALL AND BRIAN FITZPATRICK, ORGANIZED CRIME AND CORRUPTION REPORTING PROJECT
Fla. — For a time, Anna de Rothschild boasted of her family roots to the
European banking dynasty, donning designer clothes, a Rolex watch, and driving
a $170,000 black Mercedes-Benz SUV.
about developing a sprawling luxury housing project on Emerald Bay in the
Bahamas, a high-rise hotel in Monaco, and a Formula One race track in Miami,
say people who knew her.
moment for the woman who was fluent in several languages took place last year
when she was invited to Mar-a-Lago, where she mingled with former President
Donald Trump’s supporters and showed up the next day for a golf outing with Mr.
Trump and Sen. Lindsey Graham among other political luminaries.
33-year-old woman was not a member of the famous banking family, and is now a
subject of a widening FBI investigation that has delved into her past financial
activities and the events that led her to the former president’s home.
“It was the
near-perfect ruse and she played the part,” said John LeFevre, a former
investment banker who met her with other guests around a club pool.
to the FBI, law enforcement agents in Canada have confirmed that she has been
the subject of a major crimes unit investigation in Quebec since February.
before the FBI’s spectacular raid of the former president’s seaside home, the
woman whose real name is Inna Yashchyshyn, a Russian-speaking immigrant from
Ukraine, made several trips into the estate posing as a member of the famous
family while making inroads with some of the former president’s key supporters.
of Ms. Yashchyshyn — the daughter of an Illinois truck driver — to bypass the
security at Mr. Trump’s club demonstrates the ease with which someone with a
fake identity and shadowy background can get into a facility that’s one of
America’s power centers and the epicenter of Republican Party politics.
issues have become even more critical after FBI agents seized boxes of
classified and top-secret materials two weeks ago from Mar-a-Lago after
executing a search warrant on Mr. Trump’s home.
Her entry —
multiple trips in and out of the club grounds — lays bare the vulnerabilities
of a facility that serves as both the former president's residence and a
private club, and highlights the gaps in security that can take place.
residence,” said Ed Martin, a former U.S. Treasury special agent who spent more
than two decades in criminal intelligence. “She shouldn’t have been in there.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project
learned that numerous records have been turned over to the FBI as part of the
inquiry, including copies of two fake passports from the U.S. and Canada —
bearing her photo and the name Anna de Rothschild — and a Florida driver’s
license with the same name that shows the address of an opulent $13 million
mansion in Miami Beach where she has never lived.
Ms. Yashchyshyn became president of United Hearts of Mercy charity, which was
dropped by two payment processors because they detected fraud.
said in sworn statements in a legal dispute that she has never used another
name and has not broken any laws. In an interview with the Post-Gazette, she
said she didn’t know Anna de Rothschild.
there is some misunderstanding,” she said.
that she was meeting with FBI agents on Aug. 19 and that passports or driver’s
licenses generated with the Rothschild name and her photo were fabricated by
her former business partner to harm her. “That’s all fake, and nothing
happened,” she said.
and three other guests interviewed for this story said Ms. Yashchyshyn
repeatedly told people after entering the palatial Mar-a-Lago grounds that she
was a Rothschild “and everyone was eating it up,” he said.
into her activities comes three years after two different women from China —
one of them toting two passports and a thumb drive with malicious software —
were arrested in separate instances after they entered the club grounds while
Mr. Trump was president.
sentenced to less than a year in jail and have since been released with at
least one being deported to China last year.
Yashchyshyn listens to a speech at former President Trump’s private golf club.
Service said it could not comment on whether the agency is investigating Ms.
Yashchyshyn’s visits to the former president’s home in May 2021, or any other
maintain the operational integrity of our work, we are unable to comment
specifically concerning the means, methods or resources used to conduct our
protective operations,” said Steven Kopek, a special agent and spokesman, in a
Service more than likely didn’t run background checks to determine Ms.
Yashchyshyn’s identity when she visited the former president’s home, partly
because the level of protection drops significantly when a president leaves
office, said four former agents interviewed for this story.
cases, “they are going to do a level of screening — a hand check” for weapons,
said Jonathan Wackrow, a former agent who served on President Barack Obama’s
detail. “He still has a full detail.”
say her ability to mingle with members of Mr. Trump’s entourage raises concerns
about ongoing security at the private club that continues to host some of the
most powerful elected leaders in the country and serves as a storage site for
some of the country’s closely guarded secrets.
is was it a fraud or an intelligence threat,” said Charles Marino, a former
Secret Service supervisor. “The fact that we are asking this question is a
information is public about Ms. Yashchyshyn, who once worked for a suburban Miami
business that specializes in providing pregnant Russian mothers the option to
have their babies in the U.S. to gain citizenship, court records show.
But when a
bitter court dispute erupted last year between her and a close associate with
whom she once lived, the details of her whirlwind trips to Mar-a-Lago and other
activities over the past several years began to surface and soon reached the
attention of federal agents.
Tarasenko, 44, a Florida businessman who was raised in Moscow, said he met Ms.
Yashchyshyn in 2014 and allowed her to live in his Miami condo so that she
would watch his children when he traveled on business.
since parted ways over what he alleged was her abuse of one of his children –
accusations that Ms. Yashchyshyn vehemently denies.
He said he
has met twice with FBI agents and spoke to them about multiple trips she made
to Mar-a-Lago and what he claims were her efforts to make inroads in the Trump
family and look for new streams of money.
“her fake identity as Anna de Rothschild to gain access to and build
relationships with U.S. politician[s], including but not limited to Donald
Trump, Lindsey Graham, and Eric Greitens,” he said in a court affidavit in
Greitens is a former Missouri governor who resigned in 2018 after allegations
of sexual misconduct. He held a fundraiser at a Palm Beach mansion last year
where Ms. Yashchyshyn was invited.
Yashchyshyn, an officer in two Florida companies founded by Mr. Tarasenko —
both devoid of any assets — claimed that whatever steps she took to gain money
were directed by him.
single move that I did, I’ve been told by Valeriy to do so,” she said in a
deposition. “[A]fter a few incidents like that, I realized that he’s using me
for his lifestyle and for his needs.”
Yashchyshyn said that at one point when she tried to break from him, he
repeatedly struck her. “Over time, Tarasenko became more controlling and
aggressive over me,” she said in an affidavit.
“I am the
victim right now, that’s all I can tell you,” she said in an interview.
Tarasenko, who was once detained in Moscow for carrying a police-style baton at
a metro station in 1998, denied that he physically harmed her.
Ms. Yashchyshyn became president of a Miami charity, United Hearts of Mercy —
the same name of a charity founded by Mr. Tarasenko in Canada five years
entity was promoted on social media as a vehicle to help impoverished children
but was actually a source of illicit funds for organized crime, according to a
statement by a certified public accountant for the charity that was provided to
hundreds of thousands of dollars poured into the charity’s coffers two years
ago, a payment processor, Stripe Inc., suspected fraud and stopped taking in
money for a campaign that was supposed to help families ravaged by the
Post-Gazette emailed more than two dozen of the “donors” from Hong Kong, and
every email bounced back, suggesting they were fake email addresses used to
trick the payment processor.
“donation” to United Hearts of Mercy, flagged as fraud.
At the end
of the charity drive, the accountant, Tatiana Verzilina, said she began to get
calls from people who she suspected were from criminal groups, threatening
violence and demanding the money.
left “voice messages from unknown numbers with accents that if I do not return
money, I and my family will be harmed or killed,” she wrote in her statement.
charity was supposed to disclose its revenues to the public because of the
amount of funds it took in, it failed to do so. Ms. Verzilina, who is now
living in her native Russia, declined to talk about the case.
it’s not clear where the funds went.
The FBI in
Miami said it would not comment, but at least three people who live in South
Florida said they have been interviewed by FBI agents in the past seven months
about Ms. Yashchyshyn’s activities.
them, Sergey Golubev, a Russian-born U.S. citizen who was once married to Ms.
Yashchyshyn, said they wed in 2011 so she could obtain U.S. residency and stay
in the country, but the marriage was only on paper.
point, she needed a permanent green card,” said Mr. Golubev, 48.
He said the
FBI told him that agents were looking for her in connection with allegations
about something “illegal — cheating people and stealing money,” but he said he
didn’t know any details, and was unaware of her activities. He said he lost
touch with her after their divorce in 2016.
person who spoke to the Post-Gazette on the condition of anonymity said a host
of records, photos and videos had been turned over to the FBI of Ms.
Yashchyshyn, including pictures of her posing with Mr. Trump, Mr. Graham,
Donald Trump Jr.’s fiancee, Kimberly Guilfoyle, and Trump campaign donor
Richard Kofoed, along with other supporters of the former president.
60, who donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the former president’s
campaign and had been a frequent visitor to Mar-a-Lago, declined to comment.
Guilfoyle, 53, whose name emerged in the Jan. 6 hearings after it was revealed
she received $60,000 for delivering a speech to protesters on the day of the
attack, didn’t respond to interview requests.
May 2, 2021, golf tournament at Mar-a-Lago, a group of Trump supporters went
out to dinner at an Italian restaurant. Standing, from left: John LeFevre, Gary
DeMel, Richard Kofoed and Ms. Yashchyshyn presenting herself as “Anna de
Rothschild.” Seated, from left: Linh DeMel, wife of Gary DeMel; Stacy Kofoed,
wife of Richard Kofoed, and their daughter Cassidy; Kimberly Guilfoyle, fiancee
of Donald Trump Jr.; Caroline Wren, former Trump fundraiser; unidentified
girlfriend of Isaac Bawany; Isaac Bawany; and Elchanan Adamker.
So far, the
FBI’s questioning appears to hint at a widening criminal probe into a network
of people that includes Ms. Yashchyshyn, who traveled under various aliases
while mingling with politicians and wealthy businessmen.
up at the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., last year and the Austrian World
Summit in 2019, where her picture was taken with the likes of celebrity rapper
Ray J and Italian car designer Horacio Pagani.
thought her grandfather had the money and that he was an oligarch,” said
developer Paul Barton, who said his family company paid for her to fly at least
three times on private jets to their resort project in the Bahamas.
offered a deal to sell their sprawling residential development for $55 million
and receive a commission, records show, but no such sale was made.
their discussions, he said she talked about her involvement in putting up a
high-rise hotel in Monaco, a speed track in Miami and a condo project in
Canada. “She talked a good game,” he said.
enforcement agents in Quebec acknowledged their own inquiry of Ms. Yashchyshyn,
they would not provide any details.
point, she met Trump supporter Elchanan Adamker, a New York financial services
company founder who travels often to Miami. Mr. Adamker, who declined to
comment, invited her to join him for a gathering at Mar-a-Lago, where she
arrived in her Mercedes-Benz SUV on May 1.
indication she met that first day with the former president, who, along with
Mr. Graham, was about to launch a $25,000-per-person golf fundraiser to raise
money for the midterm elections.
the event was held the next day at Trump International Golf Club just a few
miles from Mar-a-Lago, she gathered with the former president, who posed with
her for several photos. In another frame, she stood alongside Mr. Trump and the
South Carolina senator, the three smiling and gesturing with their thumbs up.
guest joked with her that he would pass the photos onto her for a hefty price.
“Anna, you're a Rothschild — you can afford $1 million for a picture with you
and Trump,” he said in a video.
captures a guest joking that Ms. Yashchyshyn, being a Rothschild, can afford to
pay $1 million for a photograph with Mr. Trump.
Yashchyshyn then drove some of the guests back to Mar-a-Lago.
LeFevre, who authored a bestselling book about his years as a Wall Street
banker, said several guests at the private club “fawned all over her and
because of the Rothschild mystique, they never probed and instead tiptoed
around her with kid gloves.”
part, she went beyond just dropping the family name, he said. “She talked about
vineyards and family estates and growing up in Monaco.”
frequent Mar-a-Lago guest who spoke on the condition of anonymity said an
invitation was sent to Ms. Yashchyshyn to attend a fund-raiser days later for
Mr. Greitens in another mansion near Mar-a-Lago and owned by the former
earlier, Mr. Greitens, a former Navy SEAL, had announced his bid for the U.S.
Senate with Ms. Guilfoyle as his national campaign chair.
this March did the Trump entourage say they discovered her real identity.
Lawrence, a Florida music creative director, said he met with Trump insiders at
Mar-a-Lago, where he said he surprised them with the news.
crazy,” said Mr. Lawrence. “Who would have ever thought it would get to this
Lawrence said the evening started with a dinner that included the former
president, Ray J and rapper Kodak Black, who was granted clemency by Mr. Trump
on a charge of giving false statements to acquire a gun. Also attending the
dinner: Rudy Giuiliani and former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik.
evening progressed, Mr. Lawrence said he struck up conversations with Mr.
Kofoed and Caroline Wren, a former national adviser for the Trump campaign, and
their talks turned to Anna de Rothschild.
Lawrence said he became acquainted with her because he was involved in a music
company — Rothschild Media Label, where she was the president — to promote
singers, including Mr. Tarasenko’s teenage daughter.
Lawrence told the Trump insiders that she was not the person they thought she
was and warned them: “I want to clear something up with you. I want you to know
that she has nothing to do with the Rothschilds. Don’t get involved in any kind
of business with her.”
divulged the information to Mr. Kofoed, who lived in Palm Beach, “his eyes were
wide open,” said Mr. Lawrence. “He said to me, ‘That’s exactly who I met. She
came to my house.’”
Lawrence said he then spoke to Ms. Wren, who he said recognized Ms. Yashchyshyn
from a photo that he showed her.
asked to take a phone picture and then “she created a group chat” to warn
others, he said.
34, who helped organize the Stop the Steal rally that took place prior to the
Capitol insurrection and was subpoenaed by the House committee probing the
attack, declined to comment for this story.
clear how many trips Ms. Yashchyshyn made to the former president’s home, but
Mr. Lawrence said she made enough of a splash that members of the Trump
entourage recognized her photo immediately.
been there more than once,” he said.
Williams, a former Secret Service agent who is now a corporate security
consultant, said there are many reasons that Ms. Yashchyshyn may have avoided
detection, including the possibility that agents didn’t conduct a background
arms granted to the Barons Rothschild in 1822 by Emperor Francis I of Austria.
(Mathieu Chaine/Wikimedia Commons)
have been run for a background check — yes,” he said, but that “doesn’t mean it
check would have shown that no such person exists with the Rothschild name and
her 1988 birthdate.
In fact, an
online resource devoted to the Rothschild family lists descendants dating back
hundreds of years, but the name Anna de Rothschild does not appear anywhere.
McDaniel, a longtime Florida security consultant, said because Mar-a-Lago is
not just a private club but Mr. Trump’s home, the level of protection should be
elevated beyond the security protocols typically afforded former presidents and
also extend to the entire premises.
“I want to
know everybody who comes into that facility, their name, date, date of birth,”
he said. “And I want them somewhere on a roster because we never know when he
is going to walk into that crowd. She should have been on a list” at the
that a person with a fake identity can get into the former president’s estate —
even if they’re looking to find investors — “is not OK,” he said. “Who else can
get in there? Who is behind that person? It’s just wrong on so many [levels].”
the former Secret Service supervisor, said the revelations of her visits to the
sprawling estate underscores the challenges that his former agency faces in
view of the Mar-a-Lago estate earlier this month shortly after the FBI
retrieved some documents labeled "top secret" from there. (Steve
highlights the complexities of having a former president living within a larger
club, and it’s accessible to [outside members],” said Mr. Marino, who once
served on the details of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
Lawrence said he was perplexed over why he was the one who was telling Trump
insiders about a potential breach, and not the people guarding the former
president and his family.
trying to understand is how did they allow this?” said Mr. Lawrence. “How could
someone keep coming back — at that level? This is Mar-a-Lago.”
Sallah, email@example.com; Jonathan D. Silver, firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington Bureau Chief Ashley Murray and Organized Crime and Corruption
Reporting Project reporters William Jordan and Karina Shedrofsky contributed to