Philippine Daily Inquirer

NY columnist likely unaware husband of 30 years a spy

- By Jocelyn Noveck and Jim Fitzgerald

YONKERS, New York—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 a leafy New York suburb, raising a young son along with Vicky’s older one, proudly watching him develop into a talented pianist. 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 theworld over the past 12 days: Could awife be in the dark even as to her husband’s very name?

And the broader question: Was Pelaez, deported on 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?

One thing was clear on Friday, hours after Pelaez, 55, and Vasenkov, 66, arrived in Vienna, en route to Moscow: A family was in tatters.

In Yonkers, a gaggle of journalist­s was parked outside the family’s two-story, brick and stucco home, with a patio, dog house and wading pool in the yard, waiting to talk to the couple’s 17-year-old son, Juan Jr., and his stepbrothe­r Waldo Mariscal, 38, an architect.

“I guess I feel sorry for the younger kid, unless he was in on it,” remarked a neighbor, Jim Carey. “We don’t really know if he knew anything.”

As for the parents: “They have to live with what they did,” he said.

Before noon, the twosons escaped, grim-faced, to a nearby park. When they returned, Mariscal spoke to themedia, insisting he didn’t believe his parents were spies, and defending their character.

“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.

He acknowledg­ed the family would lose their home, since it was paid for by the Russians, but added: “My parents paid for this house with their sacrifices since 1995.”

A lawyer for the father noted that the sons had no income. “It’s very upsetting. They don’t know what to do next,” said Genesis Peduto.

 ?? AP ?? VICKY Pelaez

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