‘Anna Delvey,’ fake heiress: 7 bizarre highlights from her trial

The New York Times

Posted at Apr 29 2019 10:03 AM

Anna Sorokin at her trial in Manhattan Supreme Court, April 24, 2019. There was a lot of hue and cry about the idea of using a formal stylist for Sorokin's criminal proceeding. But the truth is that dress and public image are impossible to separate, especially when motivations are in question. Jefferson Siegel, The New York Times

NEW YORK — For years, Anna Sorokin dreamed of being someone else. A Russian immigrant with aspirations of becoming a member of Manhattan’s upper society, Sorokin hopped around Germany and Paris before finally coming to New York in 2014.

But she arrived with a new identity: that of a wealthy German heiress with a trust fund worth 60 million euros (about $67 million). She came up with a new name, Anna Delvey, and lived under that identity as she bilked banks, hotels, restaurants and a private jet operator out of more than $200,000 — and aimed to get millions more, according to prosecutors.

Following a month-long trial, a jury in Manhattan on Thursday found Sorokin guilty of second-degree grand larceny, theft of services and one count of first-degree attempted grand larceny. She was found not guilty on other charges after being accused of providing falsified documents in an attempt to secure a $22 million bank loan, and of stealing some $60,000 for a lavish trip to Marrakesh, Morocco.

Sorokin faces up to 15 years in prison on the second-degree grand larceny charge, and her sentencing is scheduled for May 9.

Here are seven highlights from her trial:

‘There’s a little bit of Anna in all of us’

Todd Spodek, Sorokin’s attorney, started his opening statement by talking about Frank Sinatra’s recording of “New York, New York,” which includes the famous refrain “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.” Then, about a minute into his speech, Spodek introduced his client. He mentioned her “moxie” and commended her hustle.

“Through her sheer ingenuity, she created the life that she wanted for herself,” he said. “Anna was not content with being a spectator, but wanted to be a participant. Anna didn’t wait for opportunities, Anna created opportunities. Now we can all relate to that. There’s a little bit of Anna in all of us.”

Sorokin had a modest upbringing. Her father ran a heating and cooling business, and she did not attend fancy schools or have connections with Manhattan’s elite. But her doppelgänger, Anna Delvey, did. “They wanted to believe that she was a German heiress,” Spodek said of people his client duped. “And that’s what they got.”

In a way, Spodek said, Sorokin and Sinatra had a lot in common. “Sinatra made a great new start here in New York, as did Ms. Sorokin,” he said. “They both created a golden opportunity.”

The challenges of styling the incarcerated

In court, Sorokin at times appeared to still be playing the character of Anna Delvey. She often attended the trial decked in designer clothes picked out by stylist Anastasia Walker. After wearing revealing outfits at the start of the trial, Sorokin dressed more modestly by the second week.

“I will say obviously there are challenges to styling someone who’s currently incarcerated,” Walker told BuzzFeed News.

Eventually, Spodek also tried to help select the outfits. Among options he brought her were a light-blue sleeveless dress from Ann Taylor and an indigo cashmere-blend sweater from Uniqlo. Such choices did not appease the fashion sensibilities of Sorokin, who broke into tears and refused to start proceedings.

After several such meltdowns, the judge informed Sorokin that if she could not make do, she could wear the clothing provided by the Department of Correction. Eventually, Sorokin paired black slacks with a state-issued white turtleneck, sleeves cinched.

The traumatic experience of meeting Anna

Toward the end of the trial, Rachel Williams, a former close friend of Sorokin and a former photo editor at Vanity Fair, testified at length about the posh lifestyle they lived: lavish dinners, sauna treatments and personal trainers, all supposedly paid for by Sorokin.

The two then decided to travel to Marrakech. Sorokin had promised to pay for everything but always conveniently found an excuse to not pay for anything. In the end, Williams got stuck with a bill totaling more than $60,000 for dinners, shopping trips and an extravagant stay at a private villa. Sorokin paid her back only $5,000.

“This is the most traumatic experience I’ve ever been through,” Williams told the jury through tears. “I wish I had never met Anna. If I could go back in time, I would. I wouldn’t wish this on anybody.”

One juror, who gave her name only as Debby, explained in an interview why the jury had found Sorokin not guilty of fleecing Williams of some $60,000: “Anna did a lot of nice things for her and she accepted it, right down to the spa.”

The $60,000 trip to Morocco

During that trip to Marrakech, Williams testified, she and Sorokin ventured out to explore the city after spending time in their private villa — where they enjoyed a steam room and private pool. Sorokin went shopping on Williams’ dime, spending $1,314 on Moroccan-style dresses “because Anna just had her New York black clothing.”

She added, “We tried to find spices that would look good in an Instagram photo, which we did, in the Jewish quarter.”

A freelance videographer tagged along on the trip to shoot footage of the women. Sorokin explained that she wanted to make a documentary about the creation of her foundation and wanted to get accustomed to being on camera.

The no-shows

Some of the most influential people conned by Sorokin were never asked to take the stand. Among those on the prosecution’s witness list who did not attend the trial:

André Balazs, hotelier of the Chiltern Firehouse in London, Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles and the Mercer in New York, met with Sorokin between 2015 and 2016 to discuss the supposed Anna Delvey Foundation.

Roo Rogers, a businessman with a slew of startups and son of the famed architect Richard Rogers, worked for Balazs’ food and beverage company and met with Sorokin to discuss the sale of drinks at the foundation, according to her attorney.

Aby Rosen, a real estate developer tycoon and a co-founder of RFR Holding who is married to New York socialite Samantha Boardman, met with Sorokin and approved the foundation’s lease at its desired 281 Park Ave. South location, according to Sorokin’s attorney.

Kacy Duke, a celebrity fitness trainer, whom Sorokin hired for personal workout sessions for herself and Williams at a cost of $300 per session, also traveled with the women to Marrakech. A few months after the trip, Duke staged an intervention to get to the bottom of Sorokin’s ruse.

$6 Diet Cokes

Considering Sorokin was trying to swindle banks out of tens of millions of dollars, the charges for theft of services appeared minor by comparison. Three of the 10 charges she faced included avoiding payment at a slew of Manhattan hotels.

The prosecutor, Catherine McCaw, said that at the Beekman Hotel in lower Manhattan, Sorokin “had no money, she had no intention to pay, she had no ability to pay.” She added, “She continued to feast out of the minibar: Diet Cokes for $6.”

At the W Hotel near the World Trade Center, she racked up a $679 bill for incidental expenses. “That’s an awful lot of M&M’s,” McCaw said, adding, “She emptied out the minibar and then asked the W Hotel to refill it.”

The final charge for theft of services, at Knave, a restaurant inside of the Parker New York hotel south of Central Park in New York, was for an unpaid bill of about $200 for a meal that included four glasses of wine, a fruit salad and two smoked-salmon sandwiches.

A Hollywood story

Already, Netflix has bought the rights to one version of Sorokin’s story, which will be produced by Shonda Rhimes, creator of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal.”

Williams has also turned the experience into a book and a possible HBO show. She has made close to $100,000 on the deals so far, with the expectation of much more, according to her testimony. She notes that she has used the money to pay people back for loans incurred after the trip to Marrakech.

“There are real people with feelings involved,” Williams said of monetizing the experience. “I just wanted to write something that people could really relate to.”