The Mysterious Madame Giselle

The Mysterious Madame Giselle

‘It is not going to look good’

Underwood’s finances were strained by the divorce, and he was sending his daughter to a public school. Giselle, he says, pressed him over and over to move the child to a private school, saying it would be best for the little girl.

When he said he couldn’t afford it, she offered up a plan. Giselle said she could fold him into a special investment opportunity: They would bid to sell T-shirts to the Venezuelan army, a deal that she said they were sure to get because of her high-level connections there. He’d make a ton of money, he says she promised, enough so that he could set up a college fund and provide a better lifestyle for his daughter.

“I love your daughter,” Giselle said in a text message provided to The Post by Underwood. “She’s the sweetest, kindest girl.”

Looking back, Underwood says, that may have been the moment when he was hooked.

“That hit me in the gut,” he said.

In an interview, Giselle painted a different picture of her relationship with her neighbor and his daughter. She portrayed Underwood as an inattentive father — an allegation he denies.

“I’m really very kind,” Giselle said in the interview. “He is a really bad person. I think he was born bad.”

Giselle said Underwood was “always talking about his daughter. Not because he likes her. It’s because he used her. It’s amazing. Amazing, really.”

By November 2015, Underwood says, he was all in. Even though he says he’d never received paperwork about the deal, he agreed to give Giselle $1,870 to cover the cost of registration fees for their bid. She asked him for the money on a bank holiday, so he couldn’t deposit it in her account. But she said that shouldn’t be a problem — he could merely slip the cash under her door in an envelope and she’d have her assistant pick it up, according to a text message.

The payment would be secure, Giselle said, because the only other people with keys to her apartment were her assistant and “one of the secret service,” a text said. The comment made sense to Underwood since Giselle had told him that members of the U.S. Secret Service had access to her apartment because of her relationship with the White House.

November 11 2015, 9:48 a.m.

Bob Underwood

Should I meet her?


No slide the envelope under my door she will pick it up as soon as she leaves the office


Don’t worry she has the keys and she worked for me the las 15 years


Nobody goea to my apt but her and one of the secret service

The Secret Service said the agency had no comment. In an interview, Giselle denied claiming the Secret Service had access to her apartment.

“This is a confabulation against me,” she said.

At the time of their exchange about the Secret Service, Underwood was upbeat about his prospects.

“If it goes through I’ll walk over to the Church of Santo Spirito and say my thanks,” Underwood, who was about to leave for Italy, texted her. He said he also would toast Giselle with Chianti. Later, Giselle sounded celebratory, too, texting that she had bought 24 Beanie Boos, a popular stuffed animal, for Underwood’s daughter. Giselle knew Beanie Boos were his daughter’s favorites.

But as time went on, Giselle kept asking for more money. On Nov. 25, 2015, she sent an apologetic text requesting $1,200 to pay a lawyer working on the project.

“He asked for more I told him to make you a discount,” she wrote.

Underwood was getting nervous. She pushed back, seeming to use shame as a tool to overcome his hesitancy.

“It is not going to look good,” she wrote, “he [is] one of the most prestigious lawyers.”

November 25 2015, 9:08 a.m.


Robert I have a meeting now et me tell you my lawyer was charging 5.000 it seems that the power of attorney should be made where the company was made the 1.200 are only the cost in the island I feel bad telling him to pay from his pocket It is not going to look good he us one of the most prestigious lawyers try your best please and send me the address you want to appear

Bob Underwood

Maybe Better to talk in person?

The messages from Giselle came amid an aura of jet-setting glam. Once, Giselle said she would soon be flying to Damascus, Syria, and explained that she’d get there by first traveling to Greece, then taking a helicopter through Beirut. She told of hobnobbing with Venezuelan generals. In another text she said that her purse, which she said cost $7,000 and contained $3,000 in cash, was stolen in Egypt when she’d left her hotel without her bodyguards.

She texted Underwood that she would not tell “the president” about her mishap. Underwood presumes she was talking about Sissi, the Egyptian president who she’d claimed was her clandestine husband.

That December, Venezuela held elections that did not go well for the ruling party, seemingly imperiling their inside track to get the T-shirt deal. But days later Giselle sent a text with big news: “Hello Bob how are you they just signed the contract.”

She asked him to give his daughter a kiss for her, and told him to go ahead and toast their business success. But within eight hours, she was texting from Buenos Aires to ask for a favor: Her assistant had called and told her that she would need to complete another registration the next day. Giselle said she’d brought the wrong debit card, and was wondering if Underwood would put $1,000 into her account to cover the cost.

Sure, Underwood said. He thought he’d just scored a big contract. What was another $1,000?

December 11 2015, 8:41 p.m.

Bob Underwood

Hello Giselle, yes. I have it right now.
Do you expect this to be finished shortly thereafter? I ask because my attorney is asking for $4700, due by December 28th. Sadly, I don’t think I’ll have it then if not. How soon after registration does it go through?


Robert You know I have to present the contract in the bid for payment next week I will let you know .

But he still had nothing to show for his investment, and in the days to come, his anxiety levels spiked.

“I’m faced with something that if it goes poorly for me I’m sunk,” he texted to Giselle the day before Christmas.

After New Year’s, Giselle was asking for still more money. She texted to say that she’d just spoken to Venezuela’s economy minister about the deal, and needed an additional $3,673.

“Please try to find the money I am worry I want to finish the deal,” she urgently texted him.

Her claims were getting more and more dramatic. Underwood was getting desperate, torn between his pique at the lack of information and a desire to keep the deal alive so he could at least recoup the tens of thousands of dollars he’d already put in. When he complained, she responded with all-caps text messages.


Underwood says he moved to a different floor in the building just to avoid the woman he once thought would deliver him a new kind of prosperity. In February 2016, Giselle sent him an email saying she would repay him for the cost of the registrations related to the bid once she sold the T-shirts. But Underwood says he never saw a dime.

For months he stewed. He felt embarrassed and humiliated. He calculated that he’d lost more than $50,000.

In March, about a year after cutting off contact with his neighbor, he filed a lawsuit against Giselle Yazji, demanding $1.7 million — the amount Underwood says she promised he would make. The case is pending. In a court filing, Harry A. Suissa, an attorney for Yazji, denied that she was involved in fraudulent wrongdoing. Suissa declined to comment for this article or to provide documentation of the Venezuelan business venture.

“In his suit, everything is a lie,” Giselle said in an interview. “I didn’t receive anything. He paid expenses. It wasn’t for me.”

Giselle has been a familiar presence in the hallways of this high-rise in Chevy Chase, Md., where she maintains an elegant apartment. (Erin Patrick O’Connor/The Washington Post)

‘She scammed me, too!’

One evening in June this year, there was a knock at Bob Underwood’s door. In the hallway stood a polite, well-dressed man who spoke near-perfect English in an elegant Middle Eastern accent.

He wanted to talk about Giselle.

The man, who agreed to be interviewed on the condition that only his last name, Sadi, be used, works for a foreign entity in the United States. Underwood was not glad to see him, both men say.

Underwood “was suspicious,” Sadi said.

Yet, the more they talked, the more they realized they’d each found an ally.

“She scammed you?” Sadi recalled saying. “She scammed me, too!”

Sadi had found Underwood because another person who lives in the building had conducted a background search after being approached by Giselle about an investment opportunity. The search turned up Underwood’s lawsuit.

As Sadi and Underwood talked, they began to see similarities. Like Underwood, Sadi had met Giselle by chance in the hallway. When Giselle invited herself for coffee one evening in late 2014, Sadi says, he and his wife felt it would be a cultural faux pas to refuse.

The woman he calls Madame Giselle began to give Sadi and his wife expensive presents, he says: perfume, a designer purse.

“She seemed like a very rich woman,” Sadi said.

As their friendship grew, Sadi says, he confided some of his dreams: Though he did not earn a large salary, he hoped to improve his lot by returning to school to earn a PhD. He pined for a larger apartment and wanted to have children.

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