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Anna Sorokin

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Anna Sorokin
Anna Sorokin.jpg
Mugshot of Sorokin, 2021
Born
Anna Vadimovna Sorokina[1]

(1991-01-23) January 23, 1991 (age 31)
Other names
  • Anna Sorokina[2]
  • Anna Sorokin-Delvey[2]
  • Anna Delvey[2]
CitizenshipGerman[3]
Criminal statusNYSDOC #19G0366; Released from New York State custody in February 2021; currently in the custody of the United States.
Conviction(s)April 25, 2019; 3 years ago (2019-04-25)
Criminal chargeGrand larceny, second-degree larceny, theft of services
Penalty4 to 12 years imprisonment, $24,000 fine, $199,000 restitution, deportation to Germany

Anna Sorokin (Russian: Анна Сорокина; born January 23, 1991) is a Russian-born German con artist and fraudster. Between 2013 and 2017, Sorokin pretended to be a wealthy German heiress under the name Anna Delvey. In 2017, she was arrested after defrauding or intentionally deceiving major financial institutions, banks, hotels, and acquaintances in the United States for a total of $275,000. In 2019, Sorokin was convicted in a New York state court of attempted grand larceny, larceny in the second degree, and theft of services, and was sentenced to 4 to 12 years in prison. Sorokin is currently held in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody pending deportation. Netflix developed a television adaptation of her story titled Inventing Anna, which was released in 2022 starring Julia Garner as Sorokin.

Since incarceration, one of Sorokin's focuses has been art. In 2022, she participated in a group pop-up art show called "Free Anna Delvey" in March, followed by a solo art show called "Allegedly" in April.

Early life[edit]

Sorokin was born on January 23, 1991, in Domodedovo, a working-class satellite town south of Moscow, Russia.[4] Her father, Vadim, worked as a truck driver while her mother owned a small convenience store. In 2007, when Sorokin was 16, her family relocated to North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. There, her father became an executive at a transport company until the company became insolvent in 2013. He then opened an HVAC business specializing in efficient energy use. Sorokin's mother was a housewife.[5] Sorokin attended the Bischöfliche Liebfrauenschule Eschweiler (Episcopal School of Our Lady of Eschweiler), a Catholic grammar school in Eschweiler. Peers said she was quiet and struggled with the German language.[5] As a young adult, Sorokin obsessively followed Vogue, fashion blogs, and image accounts on LiveJournal and Flickr.[6]

After graduating from the school in June 2011, Sorokin moved to London to attend Central Saint Martins, an art school, but soon dropped out and returned to Germany.[6] In 2012, she briefly interned at a public relations company in Berlin. Sorokin then relocated to Paris, where she earned around €400 per month through an internship for Purple, a French fashion magazine.[7] Although Sorokin did not contact her parents often, they subsidized her rent.[5][6][7] Around that time, Sorokin began using the name "Anna Delvey", which she claimed was based on her mother's maiden name. Sorokin's parents, however, said they "do not recognize the surname".[7] Sorokin later admitted she "just came up with it."[8]

Fraud[edit]

In mid-2013, Sorokin traveled to New York City to attend New York Fashion Week. Finding it easier to make friends in New York than Paris, she opted to stay, transferring to Purple's New York office for a brief time.[7] After quitting Purple, Sorokin came up with the idea of the "Anna Delvey Foundation" – a private members' club and art foundation – and unsuccessfully sought funding from wealthy members of the city's social scene. Her proposal included leasing the entire Church Missions House, comprising six floors and 45,000 sq ft (4,200 m2) and owned by Aby Rosen's RFR Holdings, as a multi-purpose events venue and art studio, where she planned a visual arts center with pop-up shops curated by artist Daniel Arsham, one of her acquaintances from her internship, and exhibitions by Urs Fischer, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, and Tracey Emin.[5] She received planning help from the son of architect Santiago Calatrava.[9] She also discussed the sale of drinks at the venue with Roo Rogers.[10]

Michael Xufu Huang became suspicious of Sorokin after multiple incidents of non-payment.[11]

According to DJ Elle Dee, who was photographed with Sorokin at a party at The Standard, High Line, Sorokin pretended to be a wealthy heiress and bragged about the brands of clothes that she was wearing, but also asked partygoers for a place to sleep. When they declined, she spent the night sleeping in a car. Dee attended multiple events organized by Sorokin where she had invited people she "barely knew... as if it was maybe the second time they'd ever met, kind of like us. Everyone just sat around, quietly staring at their own phones." Dee described Sorokin as "entitled and mean – especially to people in the service industry". Dee also described how Sorokin relied on her and other acquaintances to pay for her expenses by claiming she had forgotten her wallet or that it was an emergency and her credit cards did not work. These expenses ranged from drinks at a bar to hotel stays and flights totaling tens of thousands of dollars.[12]

In 2015, Sorokin met art collector and University of Pennsylvania student Michael Xufu Huang at a dinner party. Learning that Huang planned to attend the Venice Biennale, Sorokin asked him if she could accompany him. Huang agreed and booked a flight and hotel room for Sorokin on the understanding that he would be reimbursed for the $2,000–$3,000 cost. On their return to New York, Sorokin appeared to "forget" the arrangement and failed to pay.[11] Huang initially assumed that Sorokin was simply absent-minded. In 2015, Sorokin also attended Art Basel in Miami Beach. Sorokin hired a public relations firm to book a birthday party for herself at Sadelle's restaurant in January 2016; after her credit card was declined and pictures of Huang at the event were posted on social media, Huang was asked by restaurant staff if he had Sorokin's contact details. At this time, Huang became suspicious of Sorokin, also noticing that she strangely always paid with cash and lived in a hotel, not an apartment.[5] He was eventually repaid but from a Venmo account by an unfamiliar name. He then blocked Sorokin's access to him on social media, ending their friendship.[11]

In February 2016, while Sorokin was living in a hotel room in The Standard, High Line, she met Rachel DeLoache Williams, then a photo editor at Vanity Fair, at a nightclub. Williams described Sorokin as "demanding and rude to waitstaff" and said that "when an elevator opened, she wouldn't wait for other people to get off". Nevertheless, Williams became close friends with Sorokin and was later instrumental in her arrest.[13]

Sorokin used Microsoft Word to create fake bank statements and other financial documents purporting to show that she had €60 million in Swiss bank accounts but could not access them since they were in trust and she was in the U.S.[5][9][7] One of Sorokin's acquaintances put her in touch with a lawyer at Gibson Dunn, who in turn put her in touch with several large financial institutions, including City National Bank and Fortress Investment Group.[5] In November 2016, Sorokin submitted false documents as part of a loan application for $22 million to City National.[14] City National refused to extend credit when Sorokin failed to provide the source of the Swiss assets, and she then applied for a loan from Fortress. Fortress agreed to consider the application if Sorokin paid $100,000 to cover legal expenses relating to the application. In December 2016, with Sorokin unable to pay rent, the Church Missions House was instead leased to Fotografiska New York.[5]

On January 12, 2017, Sorokin convinced City National to grant her a temporary overdraft facility for $100,000, on the promise that it would be repaid quickly. Sorokin provided fake AOL email addresses of "Peter Hennecke", a non-existent business manager; when suspicions arose, Sorokin claimed that he died and invented a new persona, "Bettina Wagner".[5][14] Prosecutors in her trial later showed that she had used Google Search to query "create fake untraceable email".[9] Sorokin remitted the $100,000 to Fortress for the loan application but a managing director at Fortress became suspicious of Sorokin's application due to discrepancies in her paperwork – for example, she claimed to be of German heritage, but her passport showed her as being born in Russia. When the director arranged to verify Sorokin's assets by meeting her bankers in Switzerland, she withdrew the loan application to prevent further scrutiny. In February 2017, the $55,000 portion of the overdraft not spent by Fortress as part of the due diligence process was returned to Sorokin.[14][5] Sorokin then spent lavishly on luxury clothes, electronics, and a personal trainer as well as $800 hair highlighting and $400 eyelash extensions.[5]

On February 18, 2017, Sorokin checked into a $400/night room at the 11 Howard hotel in Soho, Manhattan.[5] She often gave a $100 cash gratuity to the concierge, whom she befriended, and other employees for simple tasks such as restaurant recommendations or bringing packages to her room.[5] Still, most of the staff found Sorokin to be annoying and described her comments as impolite and classist.[5] Sorokin became comfortable in the hotel and regularly walked around in leggings or a hotel robe, often dining at Le Coucou, the hotel restaurant, where Sorokin befriended chef Daniel Rose[13] and billed the cost of her meals to her room.[5] She treated the concierge to massages, manicures, and sessions with the celebrity personal trainer Kacy Duke.[5]

After management discovered that there was no credit card on file for Sorokin, they insisted that she settle her $30,000 bill. Sorokin had a case of 1975 Dom Pérignon champagne delivered to the staff in an attempt to keep them on her side; hotel policy prevented the staff from keeping the gift.[5] By March 2017, one month after receiving the $55,000 remaining from her loan application fee, because of her lavish spending, Sorokin had run out of money. She then would offer to take friends out for drinks and dinner but when it was time to pay the bill, she would claim that she had forgotten her credit cards or her credit cards would not work.[14] By this time, Sorokin was very active in the New York social scene; she attended dinner parties where she met Macaulay Culkin and Martin Shkreli.[5]

In April 2017, Sorokin deposited $160,000 worth of fraudulent checks into a Citibank account, of which she was able to retrieve $70,000 in usable funds.[2] She then wired $30,000 to 11 Howard to pay the outstanding bill.[5]

In May 2017, by sending a forged wire transfer confirmation from Deutsche Bank for the $35,390 fee, Sorokin booked a return charter flight on a business jet via Blade to Omaha, Nebraska, to attend the annual general meeting of Berkshire Hathaway with the goal of meeting Warren Buffett.[5][15] Sorokin had allegedly met Blade CEO Robert S. Wiesenthal although Wiesenthal later said that he did not know her at all.[5] Wiesenthal reported her to the police in August 2017 after repeated failure to pay.[15] Sorokin later claimed that, during the trip, she snuck into a private party at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium where she mingled with Bill Gates.[16]

Since Sorokin still refused to provide a credit card to the 11 Howard hotel, while she was in Omaha, the entry code on her hotel room was changed, and her belongings were placed in storage.[5] As retribution, using a tactic she learned from Martin Shkreli, she purchased the domain names corresponding to the names of the hotel managers and emailed them asking for a ransom of $1 million each.[13] With the help of her friend Rachel DeLoache Williams, after three months of living at 11 Howard, Sorokin moved her belongings to The Mercer Hotel.[13] Sorokin also stayed two nights at The Bowery Hotel, sending the hotel a fake wire transfer receipt from Deutsche Bank.[5]

In May 2017, Sorokin invited Rachel Williams, Kacy Duke, and her videographer on what she said was an "all-expenses-paid" journey to Morocco, supposedly because she needed to "reset" her Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Inspired by Khloé Kardashian, Sorokin booked a $7,000/night riad with three bedrooms, a private swimming pool, and a dedicated butler at La Mamounia, a 5-star luxury hotel in Marrakesh, with plans to make "a behind-the-scenes documentary" on the creation of her foundation.

After a few days, staff said that they were unable to charge Sorokin's credit cards and demanded an alternative form of payment. Sorokin gave excuses, blaming people for typing the numbers in wrong or the systems for being down.[17] The lack of a credit card on file led to a hotel staff member being fired.[13] Sorokin convinced Williams to pay the $62,000 bill, which was more than a year of net salary for Williams,[13][5] using her work and personal credit cards, with a promise to reimburse her via wire transfer. Williams had also paid for the flights to Morocco, items purchased by Sorokin, and a private tour of Majorelle Garden using her credit cards, with promises by Sorokin to be reimbursed.[9]

Despite repeated promises from Sorokin, and one excuse after another,[13] Williams was only repaid $5,000[5] and needed to borrow money from friends to pay her rent as she only had $410 in her checking account at the time.[13] American Express later removed approximately $52,000 of the charges on her credit cards.[18][9][13] After contacting other acquaintances who also lent money to Sorokin and were not repaid and who all had heard different backstories on Sorokin's parents' alleged wealth, Williams realized that Sorokin was committing fraud.[13]

In Morocco, Sorokin also stayed at Kasbah Tamadot, a Virgin Limited Edition luxury hotel,[13] and at the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts in Casablanca, where she asked Duke, who had already returned to New York due to a foodborne illness, to pay for the room.[5] When Duke also offered to pay for a flight back to New York for Sorokin, Sorokin asked for first class travel.[5] Sorokin drank fine wines and the most expensive champagnes and took a helicopter to the airport in Casablanca.[17]

Returning to New York later in May, Sorokin relocated to the Beekman Hotel, moving her belongings in a likely rented or borrowed Tesla car.[5] Twenty days later, in June 2017, having accumulated a bill of $11,518 and failing to pay despite repeated promises, she was evicted. She then attempted a similar scam at the hotel W New York Downtown Hotel and Residences, failing to pay her $503.76 bill; she was evicted after two days and charged with theft of services.[5][19] By July 5, Sorokin was homeless; she then interrupted Duke in the middle of a date, crying and pressuring her into providing lodging.[5] She also asked Williams for lodging, again in a crying tantrum; Williams refused.[13] Sorokin also tried to "dine and dash" at the restaurant at the Le Parker Meridien hotel; when caught, she claimed to police that she could get a friend to pay the bill in five minutes.[5] At this time, Sorokin was also being investigated by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office for bank fraud.[13]

On August 17 and 21, 2017, Sorokin allegedly deposited two bad checks worth $15,000 into her account at Signature Bank and over the next few days, she withdrew approximately $8,200 in cash before the checks were returned.[20]

Indictment and arrest[edit]

Sorokin was arrested on October 3, 2017, in a sting operation planned by Michael McCaffrey, a police officer with the New York Police Department working with the Manhattan District Attorney's office. In order to facilitate the "sting", McCaffrey worked closely together with Sorokin's former friend, Rachel Williams. At the time, Sorokin was staying at Passages Malibu, a luxury rehab/addiction treatment facility near the beach in Los Angeles County, California.

In order to convince Sorokin to enter a more public venue where an arrest would be more easily effected, officer McCaffrey had Sorokin's former friend arrange a lunch meeting at a restaurant outside of the facility. When Sorokin left the addiction treatment facility, she was arrested by officers from the Los Angeles Police Department.[21][22] Later that month, Sorokin was indicted by a grand jury convened by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. on two counts of attempted grand larceny in the first degree, three counts of grand larceny in the second degree, one count of grand larceny in the third degree, and one count of misdemeanor theft of services for the fraudulent loan applications made to City National and Fortress, the check fraud, the cost of the trip to Morocco, and the unpaid hotel and restaurant bills.[9]

Trial, conviction, and sentence[edit]

On December 18, 2018, Sorokin appeared in New York City Criminal Court and rejected a plea deal that offered three to nine years in prison. A trial started on March 20, 2019, presided over by Judge Diane Kiesel.[14]

At her request, Sorokin's defense attorney arranged for a wardrobe stylist to source outfits for her court appearances.[23][24] On Wednesday, she swapped out her Rikers uniform for a Michael Kors shift dress. The following day, she paired a sheer black Saint Laurent top with Victoria Beckham trousers.[8] On the Friday of the trial, Sorokin refused to enter the courtroom because she did not want to appear in her prison-issued clothing and her civilian outfit for the day "had not been pressed". After a crying tantrum and delaying the trial for an hour and a half, she was forced to appear by the judge.[25][26]

In the trial, Sorokin's lawyer defended her by saying that her intent all along was to repay the debt and that services were given to her in exchange for publicity on Instagram. He described her as an entrepreneur with a comparison to Frank Sinatra, claiming they both created a "golden opportunity" in New York.[10]

On April 25, 2019, after deliberating for two days, the jury found Sorokin guilty of eight charges, including grand larceny in the second degree, attempted grand larceny, and theft of services. Sorokin was found not guilty of two other charges: one of attempted grand larceny in the first degree relating to the original loan application with City National, and one of larceny in the second degree relating to the alleged theft of $62,000 from Rachel Williams in Marrakesh.[14][27]

In an interview before her sentencing, Sorokin said that "I'd be lying to you and to everyone else and to myself if I said I was sorry for anything".[17] On May 9, 2019, Sorokin was sentenced to 4 to 12 years in state prison, fined $24,000, and ordered to pay restitution of $199,000, including $100,000 to City National, $70,000 to Citibank, and approximately two-thirds of the amount owed to Blade.[28][29] These amounts, as well as approximately $75,000 in legal fees related to the trial, were paid from proceeds of Sorokin's $320,000 deal with Netflix; the court allowed Sorokin to keep the remaining $22,000.[30] Sorokin was not forced to pay the $160,000 in legal fees owed to Perkins Coie related to the unsuccessful lease of Church Missions House, $65,000 in legal fees due to Gibson Dunn related to the unsuccessful $22 million loan application, and $30,000 in legal fees due to Lowenstein Sandler.[31]

Sorokin was incarcerated at Rikers Island during the trial, where she had 13 infractions for misbehavior such as fighting and disobeying orders and was placed into solitary confinement during Christmas.[7] After the trial, Sorokin, inmate #19G0366 of the New York State Department of Corrections,[32] was initially housed at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women before being transferred to Albion Correctional Facility.[22][33] On February 11, 2021, Sorokin was released from prison on parole.[34] After release, she checked in to The NoMad hotel and hired a German camera crew to follow her and film her activities.[35][failed verification]

Six weeks after her release on parole, on March 25, 2021, she was taken back into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for overstaying her visa. She is currently being held in a New Jersey county jail by ICE awaiting deportation to Germany, which she is legally contesting.[3][36] In January 2022, she tested positive for COVID-19 in prison and was placed in quarantine. An immigration judge ruled that if Sorokin was freed, she "would have the ability and inclination to continue to commit fraudulent and dishonest acts".[37]

While still in prison on March 1, 2022, Sorokin joined a class-action suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. Sorokin alleges ICE refused multiple requests for a COVID-19 booster shot. She received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine the previous April.[38]

Media representation[edit]

In 2018, after an article by Jessica Pressler on Sorokin was published in New York, Netflix paid Sorokin $320,000 for the rights to her life story.[39][40] However, the New York Attorney General's office sued Sorokin in 2019 using the state's Son of Sam law, which prohibits those convicted of a crime from profiting from its publicity and forced the majority of these funds to be used to pay restitution and fines per the judgment.[41]

In July 2019, My Friend Anna, a book written by Rachel DeLoache Williams, was published by Gallery Publishing Group, an imprint of Simon & Schuster,[42] as well as by Quercus in the UK and Goldmann in Germany. Williams received $300,000 for the book, in which she details her experiences with Sorokin, including how the trip to Marrakesh affected her financially and mentally.[9][43] Screenwriter Lena Dunham paid Williams $35,000 for an option to the television rights to her story but did not exercise it, so the story rights returned to Williams.[35]

Sorokin's story has been the subject of an episode of American Greed by CNBC,[44] an episode of Generation Hustle by HBO Max,[45] an episode of 20/20, where Sorokin was interviewed by Deborah Roberts while in ICE custody,[46] and an episode of 60 Minutes where Sorokin was interviewed by Liam Bartlett.[47]

In December 2019, Sorokin's story was the subject of Fake Heiress, a drama-documentary podcast by journalist Vicky Baker and playwright Chloe Moss released by BBC Radio 4, starring Bella Dayne as Sorokin.[48] In the 2020 American television series Katy Keene, the character of Pepper Smith, played by Julia Chan, is loosely based on Sorokin.[49][50][51]

In late July and early August 2021, Anna X, a stage play inspired by Sorokin's story by Joseph Charlton starring Emma Corrin and Nabhaan Rizwan, ran at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London and The Lowry in Salford.[52]

Netflix's nine-episode series Inventing Anna was created by Shonda Rhimes. In it, Sorokin is played by Julia Garner. The series was released in February 2022 and was the top watched program on Netflix during the week it was released.[53]

In 2022, Sorokin signed a deal with Bunim/Murray Productions to star in a reality television series about her life after prison.[54] She is also working on a book about her time in jail and a podcast.[55] In late May 2022, Sorokin joined sisters Paris Hilton and Nicky Rothschild on an episode of Hilton's podcast This is Paris.[56]

Art shows[edit]

"Free Anna Delvey" art show[edit]

Rumors of a show were first posted by Noah Becker (publisher of Whitehot magazine) who runs the room Friday Art Gossip on the social networking service Clubhouse.[57] From March 17 to March 24, 2022, while Sorokin was still incarcerated, she participated in a pop-up group show called "Free Anna Delvey" with five reproduced drawings.[58] The show incorporated art from 33 artists inspired by Sorokin, including Becker.[59] The show, which was arranged to earn money toward Sorokin's legal defence, was co-curated by Alfredo Martinez and Julia Morrison.[58] Martinez had previously been to prison for forging Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings.[60]

The show was held in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Sorokin called Martinez during the show, when he put her on speaker. In an interview with Business Insider, Sorokin stated she was "Very happy and grateful for the grassroots support I've been getting from both young artists and the art world in general. Hope I'll be present in person for the next one."[60] Each of Sorokin's pieces was listed for $10,000.[61] One of the pieces, titled Send Bitcoin, features a seated Sorokin wearing a red dress while working on a computer and facing away from the viewer.[57] Other pieces included Anna on ICE, and ICE, both referring to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.[62] UltraNYC called the pieces "doodles" and "part of her latest ploy to profit from her newfound fame..."[63] Grunge stated the show "generally displayed [Sorokin] in a sympathetic, if not overtly positive, light."[64]

"Allegedly" art show[edit]

In early April 2022, Chris Martine of Founders Art Club, who is representing Sorokin with her art, announced an upcoming show. After the announcement, ARTnews stated "Interest is ridiculously high."[58] On May 19, 2022, while Sorokin was still incarcerated, "Allegedly" was released in a nightclub on the second floor of the Public Hotel in Manhattan.[65] The show opened with the song "Flashing Lights" by rapper Kanye West, followed by drag queen Yuhua Hamasaki hyping up the crowd.[66] Models walked through the room holding Sorokin's drawings in gold-plated frames while wearing white gloves, Versace sunglasses, and black stockings covering their heads and faces.[65] Sorokin addressed the crowd via a prerecorded recording, stating the show was "my narrative from my perspective".[67] E.J. Dickinson of ARTNews wrote, "Anna Delvey's biggest scam might be her art show."[68] She continued, writing, "The art show struck me as the type of naked press grab common among former tabloid mainstays who suspect they may be losing their grip in the zeitgeist, and judging by the fact that almost everyone I spoke to at the show was either a reporter, a publicist, or a friend of either, this assessment turned out to be correct."[68]

The drawings, priced at US$10,000 each, will be used toward Sorokin's legal fund, with Sorokin stating 15% of the proceeds will go to children's charities.[69]

Non-fungible tokens[edit]

In June 2022, she announced that she was launching a collection of non-fungible tokens. Sorokin minted 10 NFTs that will give holders "exclusive access" to her. [70] [71]

Personal life[edit]

Sorokin maintains social media accounts, which she has described as satire, on Twitter and Instagram.[36] Through Instagram, she connected with Julia Fox, with whom she is planning a collaboration.[36] In January 2021, Sorokin penned a sarcastic letter to Donald Trump in which she anticipated him becoming a prisoner at Rikers Island.[72] Sorokin had a boyfriend in New York for two years until he moved to the United Arab Emirates. Despite keeping his identity secret, Sorokin disclosed that her boyfriend gave TED talks and was profiled in The New Yorker. She suggested she would reveal his identity for a fee, with bidding starting at $10,000.[5][55] In 2019, Sorokin made investments in technology and cryptocurrency. At that time, her aspirations included running an investment fund.[7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ a b c d "The People of the State of New York – against Anna Sorokin Defendant" (PDF). CBS News. Archived (PDF) from the original on February 11, 2022. Retrieved February 17, 2022.
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