Woman accused of trying to extort money from ex-Gov. Spitzer

NEW YORK (AP) — A woman who accused former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer of assaulting her has been arrested for trying to extort money from him, police said.

Svetlana Zakharova, 26, was arrested Monday night in New York City and charged with grand larceny by extortion. She also was charged with forgery in an unrelated case in which police said she used a 67-year-old Bloomfield, New Jersey man’s information and signed a lease agreement that ended up costing him $18,000.

The Russian woman fled the country after accusing Spitzer in February of assaulting her in a room at The Plaza Hotel, an allegation his attorney said was false, created by someone with “emotional difficulties.”

Attorney Adam Kaufmann said at the time that the woman phoned Spitzer 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.

“And they had a brief and amicable conversation, and then Mr. Spitzer left,” Kaufmann said. 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, saying she had cut herself and was distraught and having a breakdown, according to two law enforcement officials with knowledge of the case. They were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. She called back and tried to cancel the emergency call but police were already en route, they said.

When police arrived they noticed the woman had a cut on her arm and took her to a hospital. There, she told doctors that Spitzer had choked and shoved her, the officials said.

She did not want to press charges, and left on a flight to Russia the next day, one official and Kaufmann said.

No charges were ever filed against Spitzer in the case.

Police did not say Monday night how much Zakharova was allegedly trying to extort from him. It was not immediately known if she has an attorney who can comment on the charges.

Zakharova is scheduled to appear in Manhattan Criminal Court on Tuesday.

Spitzer, a Democrat, resigned in 2008 amid revelations that he had sex with prostitutes. He was named as a prostitution ring patron during a federal investigation, but was not charged.

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