In his 20-year career as a New York police detective, Kevin Rodgers says he never met the likes of Viktoria Nasyrova.
Det. Kevin Rodgers: She is a very colorful criminal …
Det. Kevin Rodgers: Extremely brazen. Diabolical.
Even the street smarts of a career cop left him unprepared for what he says she did.
Kevin Rodgers: I’ve never dealt with a case where cheesecake that’s laced with poison is utilized …
It started on Sept. 2, 2016, with what seemed like a routine call.
Det. Kevin Rodgers: It was a call from patrol stating that we have a — a woman … advising that there are items missing from her bedroom.
The woman was a beauty stylist named Olga Tsvyk, who did eyelash extensions at a nearby salon. Patrol officers told Rodgers she’d reported items, including purses, had vanished from her home.
Det. Kevin Rodgers: I grab my partner … and we headed out to this, uh, woman’s house.
She told Rodgers she had just returned home from the hospital, where she said she’d been in and out of consciousness with severe dizziness and nausea.
When he got to the scene, Olga, a Ukrainian immigrant, still seemed a bit woozy.
Peter Van Sant: Can you remember at all … the police asking you questions?
Olga Tsvyk: (Sighs) No, I don’t remember.
She says the only thing she remembered was that a frantic client from the salon had come to her house — a Russian woman named Viktoria Nasyrova, who had wanted her eyelashes extended in a hurry.
Det. Kevin Rodgers:” I need an emergency eyelash repair done. Please, please, please.” … Olga said, “I never have done that before … every bit of work I do is in my salon.”
Olga had told her client she had no appointments available. But she says Viktoria was in the habit of being pushy – she’d repeatedly suggested they spend time together outside of work.
Olga Tsvyk: She starts acting like she’s my friend, you know?
Feeling uneasy, Olga had refused Viktoria’s offers to hang out. And she noticed something else about Viktoria — something visually unsettling: an uncanny physical resemblance.
Olga Tsvyk: I thought she looked like me.
While Olga had turned down socializing with Viktoria, she relented to her pleas for eyelash help and told her to come over. Olga’s uneasy feeling returned when Viktoria showed up at her door with three small slices of cheesecake.
Olga Tsvyk: It’s from, like famous bakery, like famous cheesecake.
Olga says Viktoria quickly gobbled up two of the slices, and then insisted Olga try the last one.
Peter Van Sant: Did you eat the entire piece?
Olga Tsvyk: Yes, it’s like small piece.
Peter Van Sant: And what happened?
Olga Tsvyk: I got sick.
She said she threw up violently.
Peter Van Sant: And?
Olga Tsvyk: Then after that, I don’t remember anything.
Peter Van Sant: So, she tells you this story, what are you thinking?
Det. Kevin Rodgers: I am suspicious.
With Olga acting woozy, Rodgers wondered if she was a drug user.
Det. Kevin Rodgers: I said to her, I says, Olga, I said, I want to believe you, however, this doesn’t add up. … But she was adamant, adamant. This 100 percent happened, and this woman is up to something.
In the garbage, Rodgers did see something.
Det. Kevin Rodgers: I walked over to the wastepaper basket and right there … was this plastic container with what appeared to be the remnants of pastry, something that looked good.
Olga identified it as the cheesecake box. Rodgers told his evidence team to bag it and tag it. Whatever had been in that box, Olga said it had made her very sick.
Peter Van Sant: You almost died.
Olga Tsvyk: Yeah, I was in coma 34 minutes.
But Olga admits doctors didn’t find anything suspicious in her system. Still, she told Rodgers she was hospitalized twice. He called the hospitals to confirm but says they wouldn’t divulge patient information.
Det. Kevin Rodgers: Which again led me to believe that maybe she wasn’t telling the truth.
Rodgers did try to find Viktoria Nasyrova but couldn’t.
Peter Van Sant: It sounds like at that point this case … is almost over.
Det. Kevin Rodgers: Dead.
But a few months later, the case came back to life when Rodgers found a new witness: a neighbor of Olga’s, who reported seeing a woman visiting her the day after the alleged cheesecake incident.
Det. Kevin Rodgers: He told me that a woman had come and gone … a few times.
The neighbor said the mysterious woman had told him Olga was sick. And when he went to check on Olga he walked into a surreal scene and called an ambulance. Her room was like a sauna. Someone had turned the heat on full blast even though it was a hot August day. And Olga was passed out in the bed, barely dressed.
Det. Kevin Rodgers: When she is discovered … she is discovered in this sort of racy lingerie.
Olga was stunned by this detail because she had been wearing sweatpants.
Peter Van Sant: So, someone changed you.
Olga Tsvyk: Yeah.
Peter Van Sant: Changed your clothes.
Olga Tsvyk: Yeah.
And there was more. Pills were strewn all over the floor. Rodgers wondered: had someone tried to kill Olga and then staged the scene to make it look like a suicide? Rodgers realized that Olga had probably been telling the truth all along.
Det. Kevin Rodgers: I do have to make that sort of uncomfortable apology to her of, I’m truly sorry for not believing you 100 percent at first.
Rodgers now turned his attention again to finding the suspect in this case — Olga’s client, Viktoria Nasyrova. But where was she? Rodgers had no way of knowing that someone else was also trying to find her.
His name is Herman Weisberg. He’s a private eye and a retired New York City detective. Weisberg was tracking Viktoria through ads on Russian dating sites and social media, where he says some of her outreach seemed designed for a niche audience.
Herman Weisberg: She was advertising her services as a dominatrix slash escort.
He believed Viktoria was using online ads to commit crimes of opportunity.
Herman Weisberg: She would knock out with knockout drugs … taking money, watches, jewelry, whatever she could get.
And he suspected Viktoria had done something much worse.
OLGA TSVYK FINDS SHE IS NOT ALONE
With the fog of her mysterious illness behind her, Olga Tsvyk says she went back to work, sharing the story of her harrowing ordeal. That’s when another client told her something she never expected to hear.
Olga Tsvyk: She said, “you know, one of my husband friend, I think somebody also drug him … his name is Ruben.”
The client put Olga in touch with the other drugging victim — a man named Ruben Borukhov.
About two months before Olga ate that cheesecake, Ruben, who ran a nearby dry-cleaning business, met a woman on a Russian dating site. Her name? Viktoria Nasyrova.
Ruben Borukhov: She said she’s a good cook and I said I love to eat.
The two arranged to meet at her place for dinner.
Ruben Borukhov: I just took one bite of fish, and I was out of it in five minutes.
Ruben says he passed out, and Viktoria allegedly went on a shopping spree.
Ruben Borukhov: She took, like, $800, maybe $1,000 in my — all together in cash, $2,400 in American Express.
Peter Van Sant: So, she’s livin’ high on the hog on your money.
Ruben Borukhov: Absolutely. … And then she brought me here (walks over to a chair in his store and sits down).
Two days later, Ruben had still been out of it when Viktoria literally took him to the cleaners. One of Ruben’s employees recorded video.
Ruben Borukhov: She is walking here and there and making some stories to my workers. “Oh, we had wine! He drank two bottle of wine.” … I don’t remember nothing.
As Viktoria talks to the workers, the camera catches a glimpse of her sitting in the boss’s chair.
FEMALE VOICE ON VIDEO: Maybe he take pill or something, right?
Luckily, Ruben’s sister called an ambulance. Viktoria would flee the scene before it arrived, but not before cleaning him out
Ruben Borukhov (shows Van Sant the inside of a safe): I have some money in the basement, couple hundred here, she took it, she took the watch.
And Ruben believes Viktoria nearly took a lot more than that.
Peter Van Sant: Did you almost die?
Ruben Borukhov: I think so … that’s how I was.
Herman Weisberg: Oh. He was a sick man.
But private eye Herman Weisberg says when it to comes to Viktoria Nasyrova, Olga and Ruben may have been the lucky ones. In 2017, Weisberg began working with Nadia Ford. Nadia said her mother Alla Alekseenko, with whom she was very close, had gone missing back home in Russia.
Peter Van Sant: And, so, every day you would talk to her?
Nadia Ford: Every day.
Nadia says before her mother disappeared, she had mentioned making a new best friend. The friend’s name? Viktoria Nasyrova. Before Viktoria came to New York, she was living in Russia, and had become Alla’s neighbor in the apartment next door.
Peter Van Sant (holding up photos): Here is your mother … standing next to you. … And here is Viktoria. … And they seem like an odd couple.
Nadia Ford: Right.
Peter Van Sant: You just wouldn’t think they’d hang out with each other.
Nadia Ford: She was always trying to be very friendly with her. You know, and my mom, she trust everyone.
In the fall of 2014, Alla had told Nadia she would be sending her daughter special gifts. Her new best friend Viktoria would bring them. Viktoria would be carrying $6,000 in cash and other valuables, including two fur coats, to be hand delivered to Nadia. But Viktoria never showed, and on October 5, Nadia tried to call her mother but couldn’t reach her.
Peter Van Sant: How many times did you call your mother that day, October 5th?
Nadia Ford: Oh, a lot. A lot. Like a hundred.
Peter Van Sant Really? A hundred times?
Nadia Ford: At least. At least. … I tried everything.
Peter Van Sant And she would not answer?
Nadia Ford: No.
Peter Van Sant: So, what are you thinking?
Nadia Ford: I got afraid because for eight years she never happened that she didn’t answer the phone. Never.
Nadia says she had found Viktoria’s sudden friendship with her mom suspicious. And that suspicion only grew when she accessed her mother’s cellphone records online.
Peter Van Sant: I saw the last person who called her. It was Viktoria.
The call had come in at 11 p.m., and there were no other calls after it.
Nadia Ford: And that’s it. And then my heart dropped. …I just cried. I just left everything.
Nadia left everything in her Brooklyn apartment and headed straight for the airport.
Nadia Ford: I just started to have this feeling that something happened. … Something terrible.
Peter Van Sant: Something terrible happened.
About two years later, “48 Hours” brought Nadia back to her hometown of Krasnodar, about 800 miles south of Moscow near the Black Sea, to show us how she launched her own investigation into her mother’s disappearance.
First, Nadia convinced Viktoria to meet her outside her mom’s apartment building, where she confronted her. She says Viktoria loudly insisted Alla was alive.
Nadia Ford: And then she ran up the stairs and then I’m like, “Where are you going?’ Why are you running?”
Peter Van Sant: And she runs up here, are you chasing her?
Nadia Ford: Exactly, yeah.
Nadia told us she notified police and took them inside her mother’s apartment. She quickly realized the place had been looted.
Nadia Ford: (going through drawers): So, when I walk into the apartment … nothing.
Peter Van Sant: Credit cards gone?
Nadia Ford: Nothing. Nothing.
Family heirlooms and expensive jewelry — gone. And whoever did this also stole most of her mother’s life’s savings: $40,000 Alla kept in a secret hideaway.
Nadia Ford: And if you take this off and it’s right over there. (shows Van Sant the area where her mother had hidden the cash)
It was gone. And as far as Nadia could tell, so was Viktoria.
Peter Van Sant: What are the police and the district attorney and what are these people saying to you?
Nadia Ford: Just wait … She’s gonna come back.
Undaunted, Nadia carried on her search, crisscrossing the country posting flyers. She pleaded with Viktoria by text.
Nadia Ford: “Listen, I give you everything. My apartment, money, you name it. … Please just give me my mom back.”
Nadia feared she was getting nowhere when she had an idea.
Peter Van Sant (in car with Nadia): Nadia, where are we right now?
Nadia Ford: We’re on a highway that — Viktoria had my mom.
She’d noticed that most main roads had traffic cameras. What if one of them had photographed Viktoria the night Nadia’s mother went missing?
Peter Van Sant: But you gotta get access to these photographs. How do you do that?
Nadia Ford: It’s Russia. You buy things. You have money. You buy things.
She checked every camera around town and circled outward. About 100 miles from the apartment.
Nadia hit paydirt.
Nadia Ford: (pointing to traffic camera): That’s the camera, you see, right there. That’s the camera that showed my mom was with Viktoria.
Pictures from that traffic camera changed everything. The pictures look blurry, but Nadia was certain that Viktoria Nasyrova is behind the wheel — and equally sure she knew who is sitting in the passenger seat: her mom.
Peter Van Sant: No doubt in your mind?
Nadia Ford: No.
Peter Van Sant: And what’s the date that this picture was taken?
Nadia Ford: October 5th in the morning. Ten o’clock.
Peter Van Sant: October 5th. The day that you lost all communication with your own mother.
If the picture could be believed, it meant her mother could still be alive.
Nadia Ford: This camera gave me hope.
Nadia called Russian police about the pictures and was shocked at their response.
Peter Van Sant: What does the detective say?
Nadia Ford: He said, “I know. I have these pictures.”
With investigators now working the case, Nadia says they confirmed that Viktoria rented the car with plates matching what was seen on the traffic camera. They tracked her down and brought her in for a lie detector test. But before the results could come back, unbeknownst to the cops, Viktoria caught the first flight out of Russia.
ON THE TRAIL OF A FUGITIVE
Nadia Ford: She cannot get away with this.
With Viktoria on the run, Nadia desperately continued her search for her mother — hoping against hope to find her alive.
Nadia Ford: I dedicated my life to that. … I quit everything and everyone. … I … didn’t believe … that my mom is not alive.
But hope turned to heartbreak in April 2015 when she got a disturbing phone call. Charred human remains had been found in a remote area about a two-hour drive from Alla’s apartment. Authorities called Nadia in to make an identification.
Nadia Ford: I said, “No. That’s not her. No. It’s — it’s just remains.” … And then a few minutes later, I started looking at her teeth.
Peter Van Sant: And you knew. You knew it was your mother.
Nadia Ford: Yeah. And yeah. So, I basically recognized my mom by her teeth.
The Russian town of Armavir is about 110 miles from Krasnodar. It’s important to this case because it’s where Viktoria Nasyrova grew up — and where Alla’s body was dumped.
Nadia Ford: The body was here.
Nadia Ford: Viktoria took everything from me. My family, my life, my mom, my everything.
By this time, Interpol already had issued an international arrest warrant for Viktoria Nasyrova in Alla’s murder.
Nadia went home to Brooklyn determined as ever to track down Viktoria Nasyrova. On a whim, she turned to Facebook. And you’ll never guess whose face popped up on the screen.
Nadia Ford: Viktoria was posting pictures … all over the Facebook. Checking in at this place and that place. Beautiful life. … she flew to Mexico.
Peter Van Sant: Having a great time.
Nadia Ford: Yeah. And from Mexico she flew to New York.
Nadia reported all this to U.S. police and immigration officials. But they couldn’t find Viktoria. That’s when Nadia started working with private investigator and former New York City detective Herman Weisberg. He combed through Viktoria’s Facebook profile with an experienced eye for detail.
Herman Weisberg: I never look at what people want me to see on these sites. I’m used to looking at everything except for what’s supposed to draw your attention in.
Late at night, Weisberg meticulously studied every photograph and made a remarkable discovery right on Viktoria’s face.
Herman Weisberg: (pointing to a photo of Viktoria): This particular picture was the most beneficial. She’s wearin’ the Ray-Ban sunglasses … that are mirrored, and she took a great picture for us to — to see the dashboard of the car. … But more importantly, the stitching on that back headrest.
Peter Van Sant (pointing to the stitching in the photo): This right here?
Herman Weisberg: Yes, this black leather with a … light gray stitching on it. … I decided the next morning, I was going to be at a big parking lot at a train station.
He walked row after row of vehicles, peering into windows, hoping to find the make and model that had that stitching.
Herman Weisberg: And it’s a big hub for the railroads.
Peter Van Sant: Hundreds of cars in here.
Herman Weisberg: Yeah. Probably thousands all over the place. So, it’s real easy … to look for the kinda detail I was looking for.
Then, a Chrysler sedan caught his eye.
Peter Van Sant: So, you look inside the car and what do you see?
Herman Weisberg: All right, it’s got the same stitching.
Peter Van Sant: And — show me on your phone. … There’s her mirrored sunglasses.
Herman Weisberg: Yup. The stitching over here.
It turns out that only a Chrysler 300 had the stitching and dashboard layout. Now, the hard part: finding the specific car Viktoria was driving.
Herman Weisberg: Again, this was such a wild goose chase at this point.
But Weisberg saw that a series of likes on Viktoria’s Facebook page were clustered around Sheepshead Bay, a Russian neighborhood in Brooklyn.
Peter Van Sant: So, you sent some of your investigators … to look for one of these Chrysler 300s. Did they have any luck?
Herman Weisberg: Well, yeah. We found a bunch of them. … And the next day I had somebody run the license plates and, luckily, we found one that came back to a Russian sounding name.
Weisberg took our “48 Hours” crew into the area he searched and called Van Sant to the scene when he again found the Chrysler 300 at the heart of this investigation.
Peter Van Sant: This is it.
Herman Weisberg: Yeah.
Peter Van Sant: This is the car.
Herman Weisberg: This is the car, yeah.
Peter Van Sant: Take a look inside. You see the stitching?
Herman Weisberg: Yeah. Hard to miss now.
Peter Van Sant: There it is.
Herman Weisberg: Now you see how unique it is, right?
Peter Van Sant: Yeah. … This is only an area of 8.5 million people. And you found the car.
Herman Weisberg: It wasn’t a needle in a haystack. You had to find the haystack first.
And when Weisberg went to the address connected to that car, the building looked familiar. Weisberg had seen it before — in another one of Viktoria’s selfies.
Herman Weisberg: When you look at it and you see that — that telephone pole and the location of that manhole cover and that manhole cover … If you look over there, you’ve got the telephone pole and you’ve got the two manhole covers.
Peter Van Sant: This is brilliant, Herman. Through that reflection … in her — in her glasses, you figure out this is the apartment building where the man who owns that Chrysler 300 lives. And with Viktoria in the picture, you thinking she might be living with this guy?
Herman Weisberg: It—she — it looks like she took a selfie there. And it — and it all starts to make sense.
Amazingly, the woman Russian authorities wanted for the murder of Nadia’s mother, was now living with her boyfriend in Nadia’s own backyard.
Nadia Ford: Four or five blocks away.
Peter Van Sant: You gotta be kidding me.
Nadia Ford: No.
Peter Van Sant: Did you try to go find her?
Nadia Ford: No.
Peter Van Sant: Why?
Nadia Ford: ‘Cause I would kill her.
Herman Weisberg: We got lucky early on. And we spotted Viktoria and her boyfriend out here.
The boyfriend was the owner of the Chrysler 300 and lived in that apartment building.
That boyfriend told “48 Hours” that he eventually became one of Viktoria’s victims himself. He says not only did she steal from him, but that she killed his beloved beagle “Joey.”
Herman Weisberg: Apparently Viktoria … got very jealous of the dog getting all of the spotlight in that house, and decided to poison the beagle, allegedly … on the beagle’s birthday. I’m a dog lover, so that’s tough.
And Joey the beagle’s demise didn’t sit well with Viktoria’s neighbors, either.
Karen Hill: She killed his dog, that bitch. She killed his dog.
Herman Weisberg: Every time you learn something else about this woman, you realize that if she was left un-arrested, this coulda really ended poorly for Brooklyn (laughs).
But now Weisberg knew the hunt was finally over. He says he called Interpol and Homeland Security but neither one agreed to take action. So, he alerted the NYPD and on March 20, 2017, the police made their move. The woman who had once posed as a dominatrix, suddenly found herself in handcuffs.
Nadia Ford: I just cried. I — I couldn’t believe that it’s actually happened. … It’s a miracle.
Detective Kevin Rodgers couldn’t believe it when his phone rang.
Det. Kevin Rodgers: Brooklyn advises us they had this woman, Viktoria Nasyrova, in their custody.
Rodgers says the cheesecake case suddenly started making sense.
Det. Kevin Rodgers: Olga had something that Viktoria wanted, and it wasn’t money. And it wasn’t handbags.
He says the instant he started reviewing police evidence photos he saw something that made it clear exactly what Viktoria was after. An ID of Olga’s was found in Viktoria’s apartment — the picture looked eerily similar to Viktoria herself.
Det. Kevin Rodgers: I think she wanted to kill this woman and assume her identity.
To back up his theory, Rodgers knew he would need to prove that Olga’s cheesecake had been poisoned. When he sent the container from Olga’s home to a lab, they found nothing. But when Rodgers decided to send it for more extensive testing, he got a hit.
Det. Kevin Rodgers: Phenazepam is a sedative … primarily used at the time in Russia.
Peter Van Sant: It makes you sleepy?
Olga Tsvyk: Sleepy, then coma, then death.
Rodgers learned that Phenazepam is especially dangerous in a hot environment. Remember, the heater in Olga’s room had been left on high. And Viktoria’s DNA was on the cheesecake box.
Peter Van Sant: All these pieces of the puzzle.
Det. Kevin Rodgers: Puzzle.
Peter Van Sant: They’ve come together.
Det. Kevin Rodgers: Absolutely.
Peter Van Sant: And, so, you think this was — this was a planned murder.
Det. Kevin Rodgers: Absolutely.
Viktoria was charged with attempted murder for the attack on Olga, assault and grand larceny. Before trial, she agreed to sit down with “48 Hours” at New York’s Rikers Island Jail.
VIKTORIA NASYROVA COMES FACE-TO-FACE WITH “48 HOURS” — AND A JURY
We’d heard cruel and colorful stories about Viktoria Nasyrova for months, so in 2017, when “48 Hours” interviewed her in jail as authorities investigated her for attempted murder in Olga’s case, we weren’t sure what to expect.
Peter Van Sant (holding photo of Nadia and Alla): Would you look at this.
Viktoria Nasyrova: Yeah.
Peter Van Sant: This is Alla.
Viktoria Nasyrova: Yes.
She insisted she had nothing to do with the disappearance of Nadia’s mother Alla.
Peter Van Sant: Viktoria, did you kill Alla?
Viktoria Nasyrova: No.
Peter Van Sant: You did not.
Viktoria Nasyrova: No.
Peter Van Sant:There’s a woman named Olga who looks a lot like you who claims that you tried to kill her by giving her a piece of poisoned cheesecake. … You wanted her dead so you could steal her identity.
Viktoria Nasyrova: I know whom you mean. I know this young woman. I can tell you that … I did not force her to eat it.
Peter Van Sant: You’re telling me all of these accusations against you … all of that is false?
Viktoria Nasyrova: No. … I admit doing a part of it, but I will only talk about it at the trial.
Viktoria Nasyrova would be in custody for nearly six years, as the pandemic caused delays, before she stood trial for the poisoning of Olga Tsvyk. When the case went to court in January 2023, the media were watching.
Prosecutor Dino Litourgis: There are elements in this case you won’t find anywhere else. The beautician, the cheesecake …
Peter Van Sant: In all the evidence you have in this case, what is the most important in your opinion?
Prosecutor Dino Litourgis: We’re looking at it right here. It’s this container…
The cheesecake box from Olga’s garbage still has crumbs left inside. Outlandish as it is, prosecutor Litourgis tells jurors in opening statements they should see it as a potential murder weapon.
PROSECUTOR DINO LITOURGIS (in court): This is not a joke. It’s not just a story. This defendant intended to kill this woman and steal her identity.
He calls Olga first, to highlight the human consequences.
PROSECUTOR DINO LITOURGIS (in court): And she’s going to explain to you everything that happened to her. Everything that she can remember, of course.
Prosecutor. Dino Litourgis: She was poisoned with something that impacted her memory.
Cameras were not allowed to record witness testimony. Olga makes it clear that talking about the details of her ordeal is still like reliving a bad dream and testifying in front of her alleged attacker traumatizes her all the more.
Peter Van Sant: Was she looking at you?
Olga Tsvyk: Uh, yeah, she looked at me.
Peter Van Sant: What did you see on her face, in her eyes?
Olga Tsvyk: Um, you know, she’s smiling.
The state also calls Nadia Ford.
Nadia Ford: She was smiling. … She was smirking.
Nadia Ford: I was trying to get — get her look, look at me. Look at the person who mother you killed. Look — look into my eyes, remember them for the rest of your life.
The judge has strictly limited prosecutors from going into specifics about the murder charges facing Viktoria in Russia, so they’re hoping Nadia can finesse the details and still get the point across.
Prosecutor Dino Litourgis: I’ll tell you it was a risky strategy.
Peter Van Sant: What has she told them that you think helps your case?
Prosecutor Dino Litourgis: What she told the jury … is that something serious happened in Russia. … It’s one thing for me to say the crime was serious and it’s another thing for a witness to come in and show … with her body language, with her eyes, with her overall demeanor, that this was an incredibly serious crime that Viktoria Nasyrova was wanted for.
Nadia Ford: I was staring at her. I just her to look at me. She didn’t look at me once.
Prosecutor Dino Litourgis: I was almost certain in the beginning of the trial that Viktoria was going to testify. … I know that she likes to talk.
As it turned out, Viktoria declined to testify and answer questions. But something she did say made it into the trial. Something she said to Peter Van Sant in a part of her “48 Hours” interview published online.
PROSECUTOR DINO LITOURGIS (in court): It’s in evidence. Peter Van Sant asked this woman in English. “There’s a woman named Olga who claims that you tried to kill her by giving her a piece of poisoned cheesecake.”
Litourgis has someone read her answer into the record.
VIktoria Nasyrova (replying to Peter Van Sant) I know whom you mean. I know this young woman. I can tell you that. … but I did not force her to eat it.
Prosecutor Dino Litourgis: For me as an individual — she’s guilty … with that statement.
He points out to the jury that nowhere in Victoria’s answer to does she actually deny poisoning the cheesecake.
DEFENSE ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER HOYT (in court): Ms. Nasyrova is not guilty of these charges!
But defense attorney Christopher Hoyt doesn’t call a single witness to help him prove it. Instead, he argues the spectacle of this case obscures the specifics: details that amount to reasonable doubt.
DEFENSE ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER HOYT (in court): There is no direct evidence of anyone seeing Viktoria Nasyrova putting Phenazepam in cheesecake.
He reminds the jury Olga’s doctors didn’t find anything unusual in her system. And he says there was nothing particularly unusual about Viktoria’s life in New York, either.
DEFENSE ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER HOYT (in court): She’s been just living in the U.S. using her normal name …
That’s just the point, says the prosecutor. Victoria’s US visa was set to expire. She was scared of facing charges in Russia and needed a new identity to help her hide.
PROSECUTOR DINO LITOURGIS (in court): There’s only two categories of people … that need someone else’s ID … you have college kids under the age of 21 who want to borrow their buddies’ ID to go drink and then on the other hand, you have international fugitives who need someone’s ID as a lifeline to stay in this country and not go back to Russia.
DEFENSE ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER HOYT (in court): This is not a case about what happened in Russia…
And the defense insists that even if Viktoria poisoned the cheesecake, it’s not enough to prove she wanted Olga dead.
DEFENSE ATTORNEY CHRISTOPHER HOYT (in court): I submit to you that they have not proven that intent.
PROSECUTOR DINO LITOURGIS (in court): This case has more than you need to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that this defendant is guilty.
But will the jury agree?
VERDICT: WERE POISON CHEESECAKE – & JUSTICE – SERVED?
Peter Van Sant: When this jury goes out to deliberate, what’s going through your mind?
Prosecutor Melinda Katz: What’s going through my mind is that they understand — the diabolical … calculation that occurred for this crime.
Prosecutor Dino Litrougis’ boss, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz says Viktoria Nasyrova is a lot smarter and more committed than the average criminal defendant.
Prosecutor Melinda Katz: It takes patience, and it takes planning.
But it takes the jury in her trial only an hour-and-a-half to reach a verdict.
MAN IN COURT: How say you in count number one of the indictment charging the defendant Viktoria Nasyrova with attempted murder in the second degree … guilty or not guilty?
Guilty of attempted murder in the second degree.
Peter Van Sant: Were there tears?
Olga Tsvyk: Yes.
At sentencing, Olga tells the court her suffering went on long after Viktoria’s attack.
OLGA TSVYK (in court): She caused me to lose trust in people. I have difficulty to trust people and I cannot know for sure what their true intentions are. … I am grateful that this person will be punished for what she did to me.
The maximum punishment is 25 years in prison. But at sentencing, Judge Kenneth Holder gives her less.
JUDGE KENNETH HOLDER: You are an extremely dangerous woman. … I sentence you to 21 years in jail.
With credit for time served, Viktoria may be out in 15. Even so, she has some choice words for the court as she is led away, barely audible under her mask.
VIKTORIA NASYROVA: F*** you.
Herman Weisberg: She’s a narcissistic, homicidal maniac. That’s what narcissistic, homicidal maniacs say when they — something— everything goes bad for them.
Victoria’s time behind bars has already been rough. In 2018 at Rikers Island jail in New York, she was assaulted by fellow inmates and suffered multiple injuries to her face.
And when she’s done serving her time in America, Viktoria faces deportation and murder charges back in Russia.
Peter Van Sant (to Nadia after sentencing): I know there’s great satisfaction for you that Viktoria’s finally going to prison. But it’s not for what she did to your mom. Is that still an emptiness inside for you?
Nadia Ford: I feel better. … at least I know, now for next 15 years, she’s not going to hurt anyone.
Two of the people Viktoria has hurt most have resolved to draw strength from each other. Since tragedy unexpectedly brought them together, Nadia and Olga have become the best of friends.
Olga Tsvyk: When we met, I feel like I — I knew Nadia all my life.
Nadia Ford: She’s very kind, very nice, open hearted, like, you know, Kind of reminds me of my mom.
Olga Tsvyk: Nadia … She went through hell.
They seem to know it takes one victim of Viktoria Nasyrova to truly understand another.
Peter Van Sant: Do you think the two of you will be friends for life?
Olga Tsvyk: I think, yes.
In 2018, Viktoria Nasyrova sued New York City for negligence in the Rikers Island jail attack. The city settled the case, paying Nasyrova $325,000.
Produced by Josh Yager. Stephen A. McCain is the development producer. Richard Barber is the producer-editor. Morgan Canty is the associate producer. Patti Aronofsky is the senior producer. Nancy Kramer is the executive editor. Judy Tygard is the executive producer.