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Wife of Russian spy: I didn't even know his real name

YONKERS - Vicky Pelaez met her husband, Juan Lazaro - or so he called himself - some 30 years ago in her native Peru. She was a gutsy TV reporter, he a talented photographer and a karate black belt. "To her, he was a hunk," a friend says.

Soon, the two were married and living in New York State, raising a young son along with Vicky's older one. And now, three decades later, with the family suddenly torn asunder, her lawyer says she likely never even knew Juan's real name: Mikhail Vasenkov.

It's one of the more tantalizing mysteries to emerge from the spy saga that has entranced the world over the past 12 days: Could a wife be in the dark even as to her husband's very name?

And the broader question: Was Pelaez, deported Thursday in a spy swap along with her husband, an enthusiastic secret agent - who like him, was willing to put her loyalty to Moscow over that of her children? Or was she a wife betrayed?

In Yonkers Friday, Pelaez's son, Waldo Mariscal, 38, said, "I don't know about Juan's relationship to Russia. He probably bought some seasoning from a Russian store," Mariscal said. As for his mother: "The only Russian thing that she likes is vodka with passion fruit." He said he didn't know where he and his brother would end up living, though he said the teenager wanted to stay in the United States.

John Rodriguez, Pelaez's lawyer, said she plans to go back to Peru, where her family has a ranch.

Rodriguez said Thursday his client "seemed shocked" to learn that Juan Lazaro was not her husband's real name. "I don't believe she knew he had another name," Rodriguez said.


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