Anna Sorokin, the baby-faced con artist, is pouting and hair-flicking as the photographer snaps away. Fresh from prison, the so-called “fake heiress” is in her element: assistants are fussing over her, she’s head to toe in designer clothes and best of all, the photoshoot hasn’t cost her a cent. At one point Sorokin disappears – she has slipped back to the makeup chair to sneak in a free haircut. “Scammers gonna scam,” quips the stylist later. She’d taken a careful inventory of her wardrobe before the fashion-conscious crook showed up. Sorokin, 30, would have been unimpressed had she known they were worried about light fingers. “I just went for the big stuff. I’m not really a penny pincher,” she’d told me the previous day. “I wouldn’t be going for peanuts.”
The story of how Sorokin, the SoHo grifter, swindled New York’s high society has become one of the parables of the Instagram age. Arriving in Manhattan from Europe in 2013 using the name Anna Delvey, she became a Gatsbyesque figure: a mysterious German heiress to a $60 million dollar trust fund who dished out $100 tips, posted photos of herself living the high life, and had grand plans to open a private members’ arts club to rival Soho House.
In reality, she was the daughter of a former truck driver, using bad cheques, skipping out on hotel bills, and blowing other people’s thousands on Net-a-porter, champagne dinners, celebrity personal trainers, and lavish holidays. For a while, in 2013 she even stayed at the headquarters of that other notorious Instagram era con artist Billy McFarland, the founder of the ill-fated 2017 Fyre Festival, which ended in chaos with guests stuck in disaster relief tents and McFarland sent to prison for multimillion-dollar fraud.
It was the Summer of Scam in 2017. Sorokin’s own audacious act came crashing down that year but it wasn’t until her highly publicized trial in 2019 that the true scale of her crimes became apparent. Sorokin had convinced City National Bank to loan her $100,000 – small change the “heiress” promised to repay within days but blew instead. She had forged bank documents and created a fake financial adviser in a bid to obtain a $22 million loan to fund the Anna Delvey Foundation, the pie-in-the-sky arts club she aimed to create in a six-story building on Park Avenue South. She scammed friends, five-star hotels, and banks to the tune of $275,000. Prosecutors maintained the true sum was probably far higher. Sorokin was found guilty of eight charges and spent more than three years locked up at Rikers Island – a place so brutal that it’s dubbed Torture Island – and Albion Correctional Facility, a prison for women in upstate New York. The party was over.
In February, Sorokin was released. Days later she agrees to meet me at the Manhattan office of her lawyer, Todd Spodek. As ordered, I’ve sent a car to collect her from the luxury NoMad hotel where she is temporarily living. This time the hotel bills are being paid upfront by her lawyer, funded with the $320,000 she received for a forthcoming Netflix drama series about her crimes – most of which has gone on paying back the banks she ripped off, plus fines and legal fees.
While we wait for her to arrive I confess my worries to Spodek that she’ll run circles around me. Has she tried to manipulate him? “Of course. People like Anna just can’t help themselves,” he says. Following Sorokin’s 2017 crime spree, Spodek argued in court that “there’s a little bit of Anna in all of us”, as if the fake-it-till-you-make-it mentality is endemic in American life. He likened his client to Frank Sinatra, citing the “New York, New York” lyric: “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.”
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