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A woman gets 21 years for trying to kill her doppelganger with poisoned cheesecake

Prosecutors say Nasyrova gave her friend cheesecake laced with a highly potent sedative, then scattered pills around her unconscious body.
Queens County District Attorney
Prosecutors say Nasyrova gave her friend cheesecake laced with a highly potent sedative, then scattered pills around her unconscious body.

A Russian woman living in New York City was sentenced to 21 years in jail for poisoning her similar-looking friend with sedative-laced cheesecake, then stealing her identification and other valuables.

A jury convicted Viktoria Nasyrova, 47, of attempted murder, assault and other charges in February. Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced her sentence this week, nearly seven years after the made-for-TV incident.

"A ruthless and calculating con artist is going to prison for a long time for trying to murder her way to personal profit and gain," Katz said in a statement. "Thankfully, the victim survived the attack on her life and we were able to deliver justice to her."

The New York Post reports that the judge delivering Nasyrova's sentence called her an "extremely dangerous woman" with a "diabolical" scheme, and that she cursed at him as she left the courtroom.

Nasyrova's lawyer, Jose Nieves, told NPR in an email that he has filed an appeal against the verdict and sentencing, which will focus on "legal procedural errors and evidentiary issue [sic] that occurred during her trial."

"The Defense believes that Judge Holder's sentence was excessive and inappropriate, given Ms. Nasryrova's [sic] life circumstances, her mental illness history, family support, and her traumatic experiences while living in the United States," he wrote.

Nasyrova is a Russian national and will likely be deported after her release from prison, Nieves added.

Prosecutors argued that Nasyrova had poisoned her friend in order to steal her identity so that she wouldn't have to return to Russia, where she is wanted for a 2014 murder.

The cheesecake incident

Nasyrova brought cheesecake over to beautician Olga Tsvyk's home on Aug. 28, 2016. The two were close in age (Tsvyk was 35) and appearance at the time, the district attorney's office notes.

"Both had dark hair, the same complexion and other similar physical traits," it said. "Additionally, they were both Russian speakers."

Tsvyk has a Ukrainian passport, according to the BBC and NBC News.

Nasyrova ate two pieces of cheesecake and offered the third slice to Tsvyk, the BBC reports. Tsvyk felt sick after eating the cheesecake and went to lie down.

She was "violently vomiting," "floating in and out of consciousness" and "terrified there was something seriously wrong with her," Assistant District Attorney Konstantinos Litourgis said at the trial.

Tsvyk said the last thing she remembered before passing out was seeing Nasyrova walking around her room.

The next day, a friend of Tsvyk discovered her unconscious in bed with pills scattered around her body — "as if she had attempted to kill herself," prosecutors said. She was taken to a hospital for treatment.

Upon returning home, Tsvyk realized that her passport and employment authorization card were missing, as were a gold ring and other unspecified valuables.

Federal law enforcement agents tested cheesecake residue in the empty dessert container as well as the pills found on the floor near Tsvyk.

Both came back for phenazepam, which prosecutors describe as "a highly potent sedative." It is available for prescription in Russia but not controlled in the U.S.

"She laced a slice of cheesecake with a deadly drug so she could steal her unsuspecting victim's most valuable possession, her identity," Katz said.

Interpol had a red notice out for Nasyrova

This wasn't Nasyrova's first brush with the law or with poison, authorities say.

She's accused of killing her friend Alla Aleksenko and stealing her life savings in Russia in 2014, as CBS News reports.

The following year Interpol issued a red notice for Nasyrova's arrest for murder — in other words, a request to law enforcement worldwide to "locate and provisionally arrest" a person pending their extradition or surrender.

Private investigator Herman Weisberg told CBS News that once in New York, Nasyrova began working as an escort or dominatrix who would sedate her clients and then rob them of their jewelry and other possessions.

One of them, Ruben Borukhov, testified at Nasyrova's trial that she drugged him during a date, after which he woke up with $2,600 in unknown charges on his credit card and a missing watch, the New York Post reports.

Nasyrova was arrested in March 2017 on charges including attempted murder and grand larceny.

The following year, speaking to CBS News from Riker's Island, Nasyrova said Russian police were framing her for the 2014 murder.

"I am not a killer," she said. "I'm woman. Only woman."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.