Ex-Business Partner of Fake Mar-a-Lago Heiress Shot in Quebec

Published: 08 October 2022

ESTEREL3 10Police at the scene of the shooting that wounded Valeriy Tarasenko in Estérel, Quebec, on Friday. (Photo: Denis Germain/La Presse)

By Vincent Larouche (La Presse), Michael Sallah (The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette), Brian Fitzpatrick and Kevin G. Hall (OCCRP)

A Russian businessman whose affairs were the subject of a recent OCCRP investigation was shot and badly injured in a parking lot in a small town in Quebec, Canada, on Friday afternoon.

His shooting is expected to widen a cross-border investigation into a fake charity and a woman who masqueraded as a Rothschild at former U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

Police in Estėrel, a sleepy resort town in the French-speaking province, continue investigating the attack on Valeriy Tarasenko. He suffered “significant injuries” but was expected to survive, according to provincial police.

“The Sûreté du Québec is doing everything in its power right now to shed some light on the circumstances that led to the injuries of the victim,” Sgt. Catherine Bernard of the Sûreté du Québec, the provincial police force, said in a statement Friday night. “For the moment, to protect the investigation, no other detail can be shared.”

Tarasenko, 44, has been locked in a bitter legal dispute with Inna Yashchyshyn, a self-confessed grifter who was the subject of an investigation by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and OCCRP on how she managed to talk her way into Mar-a-Lago and pose for photos with Trump and a Republican senator, among others.

Interviewed for that story, Tarasenko told OCCRP he had had a falling out with Yashchyshyn, 33, whom he alleged had threatened to kill him and his family. He said he shared that with the FBI, as well as information about her falsely impersonating a Rothschild to schmooze with wealthy Mar-a-Lago members. Spokesmen for the FBI in Miami did not return requests for comment on his shooting.

The Post-Gazette and OCCRP were working on a follow-up story on alleged criminal activity by a group of Russian speakers in Estérel, the town where Tarasenko was shot. Neighbors said both he and Yashchyshyn frequently visited the town, where his ex-wife, Anna Tarasenko, still lives.

His shooting was first reported by OCCRP’s partner in that investigation, Montreal-based La Presse. Quebec police were called to the scene about 12:45 p.m. after receiving a 911 call about an “armed attack” in the community. Surveillance cameras showed Tarasenko left his white Range Rover in a parking lot and showed up injured at the reception desk of a resort hotel shortly afterward. Police said a suspect or suspects fled in a vehicle before they arrived.

Tarasenko was born in Soviet Ukraine and raised in Moscow. He told the Post-Gazette and OCCRP that he had hired Yaschyshyn — a Ukrainian immigrant to the U.S. — in 2014 to live in his Miami condo and watch his daughter while he traveled on business.

But over the past year, the pair had a falling out. He has accused Yaschyshyn of abusing his daughter, while she has claimed he was a violent and controlling partner who effectively held her hostage and forced her to romance wealthy men for money, sometimes pretending to be a Rothschild. Both Yashchyshyn and Tarasenko had filed domestic violence injunctions against each other in the U.S. in recent months, while each strongly denying the allegations against them.

Until their relationship imploded, the pair also appear to have run a fraudulent charity together based out of Florida and Canada. Although Canadian authorities told OCCRP that United Hearts of Mercy was never registered as a charity, it took in donations from the public that were supposedly intended to help impoverished children.

Tarasenko and his ex-wife Anna have also been embroiled in a long-running business and legal dispute with her stepfather, Yuri Manakhov. He testified in civil proceedings that he provided hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to Anna Tarasenko, but their relationship deteriorated after the couple demanded more money.

In 2015 Valeriy Tarasenko was accused of making death threats against Manakhov, who also claimed his car had been targeted in an arson attack. Eventually, a Canadian court issued a peace order prohibiting Tarasenko from approaching his former father-in-law.

In a brief email Friday to La Presse, Yashchyshyn said she hadn’t heard about the shooting and added: “I don’t know what they are doing since I left them a year ago. So I have no comments.”

Tarasenko’s Florida-based lawyer, Steven Veinger, said he was stunned by the shooting.

“This is just horrible,” he told the Post-Gazette. “I just can’t believe this is happening.”

On Friday, the mayor of Estérel, Frank Pappas, told La Presse that police assured him Tarasenko had been the only intended target of the attack, and that there was no risk to the public.