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Inventing Anna: Ukrainian-Born Scammer Posed with Trump and Wandered Mar-a-Lago

Inna Yashchyshyn, a self-confessed grifter linked to a fraudulent charity, posed as a member of one of the world’s most famous banking families, gained access to Donald Trump’s Florida home, and mingled with top Republicans.

Key Findings

  • Inna Yashchyshyn, alias Anna de Rothschild, was invited into Mar-a-Lago and posed as a member of the European banking dynasty.
  • Yashchyshyn is linked to a fake charity and other fraudulent ventures.
  • Her dealings are being investigated by law enforcement in both Canada and the U.S.
  • The revelations raise security concerns about how she was able to mix freely at Mar-a-Lago with the ex-president and other prominent political figures.

Anna de Rothschild blended in perfectly as she rolled through the gates at Mar-a-Lago. Bearing the name of European banking royalty, she flashed a Rolex on her wrist, drove a new Mercedes Benz AMG G63, and touted her connections to big real estate developments.

The rich and powerful she mingled with at the Florida resort, including close family and friends of the 45th president of the United States, seemed unaware that the confident 33-year-old with long, flowing locks was no Rothschild.

OCCRP and the The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette have learned that the woman who guests said posed as a Rothschild is actually Inna Yashchyshyn, a Russian-speaking immigrant born in Ukraine, daughter of a truck driver and the former director of a Miami charity called United Hearts of Mercy.

She is also under investigation by Canadian law enforcement, and the FBI is asking questions about her business dealings.

Her charity was kicked off payment processing platform Stripe after its experts found stolen credit card numbers from Hong Kong were used to route donations to the charity.

Yashchyshyn’s background and her motives for making her way to Mar-a-Lago, where she had her photo snapped alongside former President Donald J. Trump in May 2021, are still a mystery.

Yashchyshyn with Trump at Trump’s International Golf Club, May 2021.

Adding an additional layer of intrigue, Yashchyshyn and her one-time business partner Valeriy Tarasenko have filed domestic violence injunctions against each other in South Florida. He claims she is a fraudster and predator who preyed on rich older men and abused his teenage daughter. She calls him a violent criminal who effectively held her hostage.

The fact that Yashchyshyn was apparently granted easy access to what Trump dubbed his Winter White House is more troubling when viewed against the backdrop of the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago on August 8 to seize classified government documents as part of a federal investigation.

Photos and videos from May 2021 obtained by the Post-Gazette and OCCRP show Yashchyshyn was quite convincing as an imposter Rothschild, a fact confirmed by interviews with multiple people who met her at the resort.

“It wasn’t just dropping the family name. She talked about vineyards and family estates and growing up in Monaco,” said John LeFevre, a former investment banker and author.

LeFevre described gathering with her with other guests around a club pool on May 1.

By the next day, Yashchyshyn had access to the former U.S. president, Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and other political luminaries Trump regularly attracts to his Florida home, the epicenter of today’s Republican Party.

Yashchyshyn said in sworn statements made as part of her U.S. court dispute with her former partner Tarasenko that she has never used another name and has not broken any laws. In an interview with the Post-Gazette, she said she did not know Anna de Rothschild.

“I think there is some misunderstanding,” she said.

Yashchyshyn said any passports or driver’s licenses with the Rothschild name and her photo had been fabricated by Tarasenko or his family.

“That’s all fake, and nothing happened,” she said.

OCCRP and the Post-Gazette sent detailed questions to Yashchyshyn and her lawyer Andrew J. Smallman. They declined to respond.

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Rubbing Shoulders, Pitching Plans

The path that led Yashchyshyn to Mar-a-Lago and Trump’s side was years in the making. It saw her become involved with a fraudulent charity, make trips to the Caribbean, and woo various high rollers with would-be business ideas.

Among those she met along the way were the property developer Paul Barton and Trump supporter Elchanan “Elki” Adamker, the founder of a New York financial services company.

Barton said he was introduced to her by two real estate brokers, and knew her as Inna Yashchyshyn, and his family company paid for her to fly several times on private jets to a luxury project they were developing in the Bahamas. He said he offered her a chance to come in on a deal to sell properties in sprawling development for $55 million and receive a commission, though in the end this never happened.

She told Barton she was involved in projects including a Formula One race track in Miami, a high-rise hotel in Monaco and a condo project in Montreal. She rubbed shoulders with the A-listers, appearing in photos with rapper and entrepreneur Ray J and Argentinian-born car engineer Horacio Pagani.

“We always thought her grandfather had the money and that he was an oligarch,” said Barton.

It was Adamker who invited Yashchyshyn to join him for a gathering at Mar-a-Lago, where she arrived in her 2021 Mercedes G-Wagon on May 1, 2021. He did not respond to requests for comment.

It is unclear whether she met that day with Trump, who was preparing to launch a golf fundraiser to raise money for the midterm elections.

Credit: Jose More/VWPics/Alamy Stock Photo Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida.

The fundraiser was held the next day at Trump International Golf Club, a few miles from Mar-a-Lago. Trump posed with Yashchyshyn for several photos there. In one frame, she stood alongside Trump and Graham, all three smiling and gesturing with their thumbs up. Later, a guest joked with her that he would charge her a hefty fee for the photos.

“Anna, you’re a Rothschild — you can afford $1 million for a picture with you and Trump,” the man said in a video obtained by the Post-Gazette and OCCRP.

She then drove some of the guests back to Mar-a-Lago.

“We hung out at the pool, like, three or four hours, just drinking rosé and having a great time,” recalled LeFevre, who said others also joined the gathering, including Adamker, Trump campaign donor Richard Kofoed, and Kimberly Guilfoyle, the girlfriend of Donald Trump, Jr.

Several people at the gathering ended up having dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant. A group photo shows the woman they knew as Anna standing behind a seated Guilfoyle, hands on the back of her chair, and Kofoed standing nearby.

The group dinner after the golf fundraiser. 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, girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr.; Caroline Wren, former Trump fundraiser; unidentified girlfriend of Isaac Bawany; Isaac Bawany; and Elchanan Adamker.

Kofoed declined to discuss Yashchyshyn. Trump Organization officials and campaign colleagues of Guilfoyle did not respond to requests for her to comment. Graham’s office declined to comment.

LeFevre and three other guests interviewed for this story said Yashchyshyn repeatedly told people she was a Rothschild, “and everyone was eating it up,” he said.

One frequent guest who organizes political events for Trump told the Post-Gazette, on the condition of anonymity, that the following week, Yashchyshyn was invited to a fundraiser for former Missouri governor Eric Greitens held in an oceanfront mansion near Mar-a-Lago owned by Trump.

Weeks earlier, Greitens — who was forced to resign from the governorship in 2018 after being accused of blackmailing a woman with a nude photo — had announced his Senate bid, appointing Guilfoyle as his national campaign chair.

Greitens signed four of his books for “Anna,” records and interviews show.

“For Anna,” he wrote in one, “Stay strong!!”

From Inna to Anna

It’s unclear exactly when Inna Yashchyshyn came to the U.S. and began using the name Anna de Rothschild.

She doesn’t have much of a public footprint, but has been a permanent U.S. resident for at least a decade, according to a lengthy deposition she herself recently offered in a U.S. court case. Her parents live in a Chicago suburb, and Yashchyshyn has spent time in the Montreal area as well as Miami.

Reporters have seen copies of fake U.S. and Canadian passports in the name of Anna de Rothschild bearing Yashchyshyn’s photograph, though she insists she had nothing to do with making them.

OCCRP and the Post-Gazette have learned that both the FBI’s office in Miami and the Sûreté du Québec provincial police in Canada have launched investigations that touch on her dealings.

The FBI refused to comment on whether Yashchyshyn was under investigation, but the Sûreté du Québec confirmed its major crimes unit launched an investigation into her in February. It said it could not provide additional details.

The FBI probe may involve a charity she led, United Hearts of Mercy. Three people who live in South Florida confirmed to OCCRP and the Post-Gazette that they’ve been interviewed by the FBI about her in the past seven months, and all said they were questioned about the charity, which also has a Canadian branch previously led by Tarasenko.

Founded in 2010 in Canada and 2015 in Miami, United Hearts of Mercy claims on its Facebook page to help “release children from spiritual, social, economic, and physical poverty” in Africa, the U.S., Canada, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic.

Because the Miami charity claimed it was a small entity with revenues under $50,000, it didn’t have to publicly disclose the amount of money it took in and spent.

But United Hearts actually took in over $200,000 in 2020, according to its own internal documents.

The charity’s certified public accountant, Tatiana Verzilina, made a sworn statement in December 2021 that was turned over to the FBI, alleging that the charity was actually a source of illicit funds for organized crime.

Verzilina alleged in the statement, obtained by the Post-Gazette and OCCRP, that she helped set up the Stripe account for the charity, only to begin receiving “voice messages from unknown numbers with accents that if I do not return money, I and my family will be harmed and killed.” She said her family in Russia — where she is now living — received threats too.

Via Facebook posts, the charity solicited donors to help get money to victims of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti in 2016, and to struggling families in the neighboring Dominican Republic. It’s not clear where the funds actually went. Similarly, at least $236,500 poured into the charity in just a few weeks after it launched a drive to raise money for families affected by Covid, records show. But it was soon cut off by payment processors over suspicions of fraud.

Stripe, Inc. determined that money flowing into the entity was generated from credit card numbers and bank accounts that were not authorized for use by the owners. Reporters from OCCRP emailed dozens of those pseudo-donors from Hong Kong, and every single email bounced back, suggesting they were fictitious or inactive email addresses employed to trick the payment processor.

Fundrazr.com, a payment platform for professional charities, confirmed to OCCRP that it shut down one of the charity’s funding drives, run under Verzilina’s name, from its site in April 2020 “after it failed internal fraud checks,” even before any money was collected.

Daryl Hatton of FundRazr said it booted United Hearts of Mercy because the charity’s lack of a convincing backstory, and the fact that some attempted donation amounts didn’t tally with how people would normally donate, raised suspicions.

“The story didn’t ring true,” he told OCCRP.

Nanny, or Not?

Yashchyshyn has admitted to working for Miami Mama, a controversial South Florida company that helped expectant Russian mothers give birth in the U.S. so they would gain citizenship, and as an “independent consultant” for Ambit Energy, a firm heavily fined in 2019 for defrauding customers.

She also forged close ties to Tarasenko, 44, a Moscow-raised businessman now working out of South Florida. In recent years, relations between Tarasenko and Yashchyshyn have soured, and they are currently embroiled in a bitter legal battle. She claims they were lovers; he denies it.

Tarasenko said he hired Yashchyshyn in 2014 as a nanny to care for his two daughters while he traveled on business. Yashchyshyn denied that, claiming in a court deposition that he had coerced her into wrangling funds from men she met “on the street or some restaurants or events or online.” These funds were then used, she said, to prop up their lifestyles.

“I would go on the dates, make a friendship, and Valeriy would take my phone and start contacting the guys from my phone and ask for the need for food, for pay the bills, ask for cash, you know,” she said.

The Post-Gazette and OCCRP talked to two men who confirmed they had been scammed out of thousands of dollars by Yashchyshyn. One of them was mentioned in the accountant’s statement shared with the FBI.

Embarrassed, the two men did not want their names used but confirmed they had lent her money that was never returned. One has confirmed he was interviewed by the FBI.

Tarasenko and Yashchyshyn were officers in at least two of the same companies in Florida. The Russian businessman, who was detained for carrying a police-style baton in a Moscow metro station in 1998, said he has met twice with FBI agents and discussed multiple trips Yashchyshyn made to Mar-a-Lago.

In February 2022, documents indicate Yashchyshyn resigned her positions at various Florida companies, including the U.S. wing of the United Hearts of Mercy.

She used “her fake identity as Anna de Rothschild to gain access to and build relationships with U.S. politicians[s], including but not limited to Donald Trump, Lindsey Graham, and Eric Greitens,” Tarasenko wrote in an affidavit filed on February 1 in Miami-Dade County. (An affidavit is a way to put something on the record when there is concern about potential litigation. It is not the same as a statement made under oath to the FBI or a prosecutor.)

Yashchyshyn with Trump and Senator Lindsey Graham at Trump International Golf Club.

Among those who have spoken to the FBI about Yashchyshyn is her ex-husband Sergey Golubev. A Russian-born U.S. citizen, Golubev said he wed Yashchyshyn in 2011 so she could get U.S. residency but it was a marriage only on paper.

“At some point, she needed a permanent green card,” Golubev, 48, told the Post-Gazette. He added that he was interviewed by the FBI in February and that agents asked about allegations of something “illegal — cheating people and stealing money.”

The ex-husband insisted he had lost touch with her after their 2016 divorce and was unaware of her activities since then.

‘She Shouldn’t Have Been There’

Mar-a-Lago is simultaneously Trump’s primary residence, a resort for paying members, and a place where the former president has hosted fundraisers and even entertained world leaders.

Experts said the way Yashchyshyn entered Mar-a-Lago, gaining access to Trump’s immediate family and prominent politicians, was deeply troubling.

“It highlights the complexities of having a former president living within a larger club,” said Charles Marino, a security consultant who once served on the Secret Service details of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Credit: MediaPunch Inc/Alamy Stock Photo An aerial view of Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, taken in March 2021.

National security officials always worry about spies and turncoats accessing classified and top-secret materials of the sort that were removed by the FBI from Mar-a-Lago in early August. A few years ago, two different Chinese women — one of them toting two passports and a thumb drive with malicious software — were arrested in separate instances after entering the Mar-a-Lago grounds while Trump was president.

The FBI reportedly took some documents from Trump’s private residence within the complex, which is heavily guarded by the Secret Service. But other papers recovered during the raid were said to have been in a basement area, which is flood-prone and on the north side of the complex, a less secure area.

The openness of Mar-a-Lago calls for a more comprehensive level of protection and deeper background checks, said Ed Martin, a former Treasury Department special agent.

“That’s his residence. She shouldn’t have been there” said Martin.

“The question is was it a fraud or an intelligence threat? The fact that we are asking this question is a problem.”

– Charles Marino, security consultant

Yashchyshyn drove into Mar-a-Lago multiple times. It’s unclear what identification she provided, if any, to Mar-a-Lago’s staff. The guest-services office there referred calls to the Trump Organization, and emails and voicemails to several executives there went unanswered.

A basic background check might have shown that her driver’s license bearing the Rothschild name appeared to be valid. But a more comprehensive check would have shown that no such person exists, said former Secret Service agent Ron T. Williams.

“To 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,” Steven Kopek, a Secret Service spokesman, said in a statement to OCCRP and the Post-Gazette. ”As it pertains to Mar-a-Lago, which is a private club, you will have to refer to organizers when it comes to who may have been allowed access to their facilities.”

It wasn’t until March 2022 that members of the Trump entourage appear to have discovered Yashchyshyn’s real identity.

Dean Lawrence, a Florida music promoter and exotic car leasing agent, said he met with Trump insiders at Mar-a-Lago, where he said he surprised them with the news. He knew Inna from her company Rothschild Media Label, which was promoting Tarasenko’s then-teenaged daughter, who uses “Sofiya Rothschild” as a stage name.

Credit: @sofiyarothschild/Instagram Yashchyshyn, left, and Tarasenko’s daughter are seen with musicians in Miami.

The evening started, he said, with a dinner that included the former president and the rappers Ray J and Kodak Black. Rudy Giuliani and former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik also attended, Lawrence said.

Later that evening he told Kofoed and Caroline Wren, a former national adviser for the Trump campaign, that Anna de Rothschild was an imposter. He recalled saying, “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.”

As he divulged the information to Kofoed, “his eyes were wide open,” said Lawrence. “He said to me, ‘That’s exactly who I met. She came to my house.’”

Lawrence was perplexed 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.

“What I’m trying to understand is how did they allow this?’’ he asked. “How could someone keep coming back — at that level? This is Mar-a-Lago.”

Marino said the sheer number of unanswered questions about the Anna de Rothschild affair was troubling.

“The question is was it a fraud or an intelligence threat? The fact that we are asking this question is a problem.” he said.

Uncredited photos were provided by sources with knowledge of ongoing law enforcement inquiries and/or who wished to remain anonymous.

Research on this story was provided by OCCRP ID. Fact-checking was provided by the OCCRP Fact-Checking Desk.