"Fake It 'Til You Make It" Socialite On Trial for Grand Larceny and Theft of Services

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Hallie Ayres
Contributing Writer

Last month, the New York State trial against Anna Sorokin, the 28-year-old wannabe socialite who fooled Manhattan’s elite into believing she was the heiress of German billionaires, officially began. Known among other fixtures of New York City’s social scene by her fake name, Anna Delvey, Sorokin faces charges of theft of services and grand larceny after her 10-month stint staying in luxury hotels, jetsetting to high-end vacations, and racking up a nearly $275,000 debt while emulating the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

According to her attorney, Todd Spodek, Sorokin never meant to commit a crime. As Spodek explained to jurors in his opening statement, “Anna had to fake it until she could make it,” a tactic Sorokin employed after witnessing the ways in which opportunity presents itself to those who appear wealthy. Spodek claims that Sorokin simply aimed to borrow money until she could launch a business of her own and eventually pay back her debts.

After arriving in New York City, by way of Russia and Germany, to intern at a fashion magazine in 2016, Sorokin made a point of living ostentatiously — buying designer fashion brands, slipping Uber drivers and waiters $100 cash tips and enjoying the comfort of Manhattan’s most extravagant hotels — in order to show she belonged within the elite social circle. At different instances, Sorokin claimed her father had been an oil baron, solar energy entrepreneur or diplomat. According to a conversation with New York magazine, however, he has actually made a career as a trucker and a manager for a heating-and-cooling business.

Sorokin managed to swindle various businesses and friends by making promises of eventually paying everything back, once the nightclub that she dreamed of opening took off and once she had access to fake assets in Germany. One close friend, Rachel Williams, was promised an all-expenses-paid trip to Morocco by Sorokin, but, after the two returned to New York City, Sorokin pinned the $62,000 bill on Williams. Writing in Vanity Fair, Williams described her former friend’s act as “a magic trick,” continuing, “I’m embarrassed to say that I was one of the props, and the audience, too. Anna’s was a beautiful dream of New York, like one of those nights that never seems to end. And then the bill arrives.”

Whenever the bill did arrive, Sorokin would request that her friends put it on their credit cards, claiming that she was facing difficulties moving money from Germany and then blamed it on forgetfulness when she never paid them back. At the end of 2016, as Sorokin was seeking massive $22 million loans to put her nightclub dreams into action, banks finally caught on, noting that her assets were unverified and that she didn’t have sufficient cash flow to make loan payments. Eventually arrested in October of 2017, Sorokin claimed a bailout was forthcoming. Court documents note her pleas with police: “I’m not trying to run. Why are you making a big deal about this? Give me five minutes, and I can get a friend to pay.”

After being forced out of her luxurious hotel residence, Sorokin has spent the last year and a half on Rikers Island. Her lawyer expects her trial to last mid-April, though there have already been a number of delays, primarily caused by Sorokin’s refusal to enter the courtroom after alleged wardrobe malfunctions on multiple occasions. In a note to GQ Magazine, Spodek admitted he hired a stylist to consult on Sorokin’s trial attire. “Anna’s style was a driving force in her business, and life, and it is a part of who she is. I want the jury to see that side of her,” he wrote.

In the case that the judge rules in favor of Sorokin’s not-guilty pleas, Sorokin will still face certain deportation due to overstaying her visa. However, a U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement representative told Insider magazine, “If she is convicted, she is sentenced to serve her time in the U.S.”

Regardless of the outcome of the trial, Sorokin’s story won’t be fading from the public eye any time soon. The actress and producer Lena Dunham has agreed to produce a series based on Williams’ exposé in Vanity Fair for HBO, and Shonda Rhimes, the acclaimed producer of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal,” announced she’s creating a similar series for Netflix.