Woman Who Accused Eliot Spitzer of Assault, Then Left Country, Arrested in NYC

Upon landing in New York Monday, the woman, Svetlana Zakharova Travis, was arrested on an grand larceny by extortion charge for allegedly attempting to shake down Spitzer

The woman who accused former Gov. Eliot Spitzer of assaulting her in a room at The Plaza Hotel in February has been arrested in New York City after flying back from her native Russia for allegedly trying to extort money from the former politician, police say. 

The woman had flown to Russia in February after claiming she was attacked by Spitzer in a hotel room, an allegation his attorney at the time said was false, created by someone with "emotional difficulties." 

Upon landing in New York Monday, the woman, Svetlana Zakharova Travis, was arrested on a grand larceny by extortion charge for allegedly attempting to shake down Spitzer to the tune of $400,000 over two years, prosecutors alleged. She was also charged with second-degree forgery in a separate case in which she allegedly signed papers on a lease that billed $18,000 to a New Jersey man. 

The Bronx district attorney is expected to handle the matter in Manhattan Criminal Court. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has recused himself from the case because of past personal and professional connections to Spitzer. 

A lawyer for the woman could not be reached.

Travis buried her face in her hands Tuesday as a judge ordered her to be held on $1 million bond on the extortion and forgery charges. Prosecutors alleged she's also being investigated for prostitution and money laundering. 

Spitzer attorney Adam Kaufmann said in February that the woman, whom Spitzer has known "for a period of time," had phoned him from California where she had been living to say she was returning to her native Russia via New York. The two agreed to meet at The Plaza Hotel mid-afternoon Saturday, Feb. 13.

"And they had a brief and amicable conversation, and then Mr. Spitzer left," Kaufmann said in a statement. But she called a few hours later and asked that he return to the room, where she had become "highly emotional and was threatening self-harm," he said.

The woman called 911 from the hotel room rented by Spitzer that evening, saying she had cut herself and was distraught and having a breakdown, two law enforcement officials said at the time. She called back and tried to cancel the emergency call but police were already en route, they said.

Kaufmann confirmed she'd placed the calls. "She was distraught and Mr. Spitzer sought to keep her calm," he said.

Police responded, and the 25-year-old woman said she was fine, but they noticed the cut on her arm and a broken glass and took her to a hospital. At the hospital, she told doctors she had a relationship with the 56-year-old Spitzer, and he choked her and shoved her after an argument, the officials said. She said the two had been together at a bar at the hotel earlier Saturday evening, the officials said.

In reference to the assault claim, Spitzer's spokeswoman Lisa Linden said at the time: "There is no truth to the allegation." 

The woman did not want to cooperate with law enforcement, and left on a flight to Russia the following evening, one official and Kaufmann said.

"Unsolicited, she has indicated that any allegations of assault were false," Kaufmann said, adding it was unfortunate that the woman's "emotional difficulties" had been made public. "Mr. Spitzer acted appropriately at all times during this incident. He has been and intends to remain fully cooperative in the event there is any further inquiry by relevant authorities."

No charges were ever filed against Spitzer in the case. 

The woman made a similar claim of another man in 2013, and that case was dropped when her lawyer at the time said he had ethical concerns with her allegations, NBC 4 New York reported in February. 

The woman had claimed the man choked her, according to the woman's lawyer in the case, Arkady Bukh. He told NBC 4 New York he dropped her as a client because he had ethical issues with her allegations, and the case never proceeded after that. The defense attorney for the man who was sued said "she clearly made false allegations against my client, and no criminal charges were ever brought."

Spitzer, a Democrat, resigned two years into his term in 2008 amid revelations that he had sex with prostitutes.

He was identified as a patron of a high-priced prostitution ring during a federal investigation, but he was never charged. His attempt at a political comeback failed when he lost his bid to become New York City's comptroller in 2013.

Ida Siegal contributed to this report.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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