Anna Delvey enjoyed a lifestyle of which others might dream. The young, wealthy heiress wore designer clothes and stayed in luxury hotels. She traveled around the world to attend high-end art shows and prestigious social events. But it was all about to come crashing down.
Although she was only in her early 20s, Delvey was well established in New York’s glittering social scene. She hosted dinners for friends and acquaintances at posh restaurants and attended hip music festivals such as Coachella, as well as the best parties in town. No one was sure where Anna’s money had come from, but she seemed to have plenty of it.
According to an article published on New York magazine’s associated website The Cut, some people believed Delvey’s wealth had come from her father being an oil industry bigwig, while others thought her family had made their money in antiques. When people asked where the young socialite was from, she told them she’d lived in Cologne. But Anna admitted she couldn’t speak German very well.
It seemed Delvey wasn’t planning to waste the money she had, though. She told people she wanted to open a big center in New York – once she was able to access cash from her trust fund at the age of 25. It would be called the Anna Delvey Foundation and would be filled with stores, eateries and artwork.
Delvey spent a great deal of time at the upmarket 11 Howard hotel in Soho while apparently setting up her grand plan. Neffatari Davis, who worked as an attendant, told The Cut that Anna made a name for herself as one of the hotel’s most extravagant guests, generously tipping staff $100 a time for a variety of menial tasks.
Delvey’s life might have been different to that of most 20-somethings, but just like them, she was keen to record all her highlights on social media. From glamorous nights out to designer clothes and fast cars, it was all documented on her Instagram account. Anna also posted pictures of her trips to various exotic locations.
Perhaps unsurprisingly for someone rich who planned to open a gallery, Delvey’s life was filled with visits to art shows. Michael Xufu Huang, an art collector who went with Anna to the Venice Biennale, told The Cut that she asked him to book the flights and hotel. And while they were there, he noticed she always paid in cash.
It seems Delvey’s friends were often willing to help her out by covering payments for her. Reportedly she always seemed to have plenty of cash and promised to pay them back. But, as The Cut reports, some of her actions did seem unusual for someone who was so wealthy – such as asking friends to pay for her taxis on their credit cards.
Despite this, it seemed for a while that Delvey’s plan to open a trendy arts center was making good progress. She found a suitable site in New York and hired a well-known London designer to come up with logos. But alarm bells started to ring for Anna’s friends when, after a birthday meal at the fashionable Sadelle’s eatery, managers called one of the guests to say she had not paid.
And soon the 11 Howard hotel told Delvey it was time to pay up, too. The Cut reports she owed it around $30,000 by this time, and the amount just kept climbing. When staff realized there was no credit card on file they changed the lock on Anna’s room. She was on holiday in Omaha at the time, so they locked away her belongings.
Delvey moved on to a couple of other hotels, but it wasn’t long before the same thing happened and in October 2017, she was arrested. Two hotels, the Beekman and W Downtown, filed charges for theft of services, but documents from the District Attorney of Manhattan show she’s also thought to have carried out scams including check fraud.
Others soon came forward with their own stories. Rachel Williams, who worked as a photo editor for Vanity Fair magazine, claimed she had lost tens of thousands of dollars after footing the bill for a luxury holiday with Delvey in Morocco. The Cut reported how Anna had been accused of falsifying bank documents showing balances of millions of dollars, which she used to secure a loan for her gallery project.
It soon emerged that the socialite’s real name was Anna Sorokin. Born in Russia in 1991, she and her family had relocated to Germany in 1997. The Daily Mail newspaper reported her father was once a lorry driver and has since run his own firm selling heating and cooling appliances.
Sorokin reportedly studied fashion in London, at Central St Martins. She also did work experience for a PR company in Berlin, before moving to Paris working as an intern at the art and culture magazine Purple. It was while Anna was in Paris that she changed her surname to Delvey.
In the courtroom prosecuting counsels have claimed Sorokin managed to maintain her jet-setting lifestyle via a method known as “check-kiting.” This is when someone deposits an invalid check, but then removes at least some of the cash before it fails to clear. Nonetheless the Daily Mail quoted lawyer Todd Spodek in June 2018 as saying “people will not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms Sorokin intended to defraud her friends and colleagues.”
If you’re thinking Sorokin’s story sounds as though it came straight from a movie, you’re not alone. Earlier this year Variety magazine reported that producer and screenwriter Shonda Rhimes, known for TV series Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal among many others, had secured the rights to the New York magazine article about Anna. Shonda is now reportedly planning to turn the story into a series for Netflix.
But it doesn’t sound like bringing Sorokin’s story to our screens will be straightforward. Variety reports that she’s been making calls to producers about who she wants to play her. According to some sources, her favored options include Jennifer Lawrence and Margot Robbie.
In the meantime, the alleged con-artist is being held without bail on Rikers Island in New York. But The Cut reported in June that Sorokin had managed to post a selfie to Instagram, despite strict rules about inmates handing over their belongings – including phones – when they enter. The image has since been deleted.
In June 2018 Sorokin appeared in court in Manhattan, charged with grand larceny. Her offer to plead guilty if it meant she would spend no more than 36 months in jail was rejected by Judge Diane Kiesel, who dubbed the suggested maximum prison term as little more than a “slap on the wrist.”
According to the New York Post newspaper, Judge Kiesel said she saw few signs of contrition in Sorokin, adding “She seems more concerned about who is going to play her in the movie.” Anna now faces up to 15 years in jail if convicted. Her upcoming trial promises to be another fascinating chapter in the life of New York’s former social queen.