The story of Anna Delvey, a socialite who conned an entire city, or so they say.
Old Money, New Money, Dirty money.
New York City is the center of the financial world. The rich, famous, and the famously rich converge upon this city and form their cliques. The highly fashionable, the Wall Street moguls, the foreign oil barons, and many more. They wined and dined in exclusive clubs peppered all over the swankiest spots in Manhattan. In 2015, 281 Park Avenue was one of them. The historical building lay empty for now, but someone was watching, circling a 4 million dollar lease like a watchful hawk. The Anatomy of a Heist That Never Happened.
That hawk was Anna Delvey, a 25-year-old German heiress. Anna had made her way to the New York social scene just 2 years before bidding for 281 Park Avenue. Small in stature and baby-faced, she picked up powerful connections in business, finance, and art. She stayed in the most expensive hotels, shelling out thousands of dollars on every meal and buying the most expensive designer clothes. Her friends would receive lavish and indulgent spa sessions and hotel staff would be tipped in $100 bills.
She had told everyone in high society that her father was a cold, distant German billionaire. Delvey also claimed that her trust fund had upwards of USD 65 million and would be granted full control on her 26th birthday.
The Anna Delvey Foundation
The Anatomy of a Heist That Never Happened. Contrary to popular belief, Anna wasn’t some ditzy socialite living just for the thrill of it all. Every party, every dinner, and every gift she gave was a move towards building the Anna Delvey Foundation (ADF). In 2016, the heiress announced that she wanted to build the most exclusive club in the world. A world-class venue with private lounges, art galleries, restaurants, and shops. Delvey picked the 281 Park Avenue property to be the site of her grand plans. Not many understood the urgency with which she worked to secure finances for ADF, but in hindsight, it is clear that she had already begun running out of time.
Soon, Anna nearly secured a $40,000,000 loan from NYC’s top banks to begin the Anna Delvey Foundation.
The Russian Doll
The story so far was one of awe for many, looking at the young woman who had set out to make a name for herself. Except none of it was true. Anna wasn’t a German heiress, her father was not a rich man and her hotel bills never got paid. Not even the name, Anna Delvey, belonged to her. Just like the Russian doll she was, her story began to unravel, layer by layer.
Born Anka Sorokin in Domododevo, Russia, she grew up in ordinary circumstances. The fall of the Soviet Union had caused money to be tight in the Sorokin household. Soon, her parents would move the family to a small town in Germany in search of greener pastures. Her father Vadim ran a small trucking business to make ends meet. The Anatomy of a Heist That Never Happened.
After school, she moved to Paris to study at the prestigious Central St. Martins but dropped out. In 2013, she landed an internship at the French fashion magazine, Purple. This thrust the young woman into the world of high society in Europe. Her time in Paris is when Anna Sorokin becomes Anna Delvey.
In 2017, at the height of her grift, Anna and her friends travel to Morrocco. In Morocco, Anna’s friends had to cover expenses as all of her credit cards mysteriously ceased to work. This is explained by the fact that Anna never had the money to begin with. She had finally run out of strings to pull. Her friend, Rachel Williams pays off the $60,000 in hotel bills and Kacy Davis buys her a ticket back to the United States. After this, she was rarely seen by friends and heard from only through emails and text messages. She claimed that there was an issue with her bank and that the money she owed her friends would arrive soon.
Rachel Williams, now in significant debt, files charges against Delvey and soon sets off an investigation into the mystery heiress. Investigators discover a barrage of unpaid bills, including one for a private flight trip to Warren Buffet’s event in Omaha. At the end of the investigation, Delvey faced charges for 10 counts including grand larceny and theft of services.
In 2018, Rachel Williams wrote an article detailing her experience with Delvey. However, it was the work of Investigative journalist Jessica Pressler that brought notoriety to the con artist. Her work ultimately inspired a featured Netflix show named “Inventing Anna” in 2022.
The Jury declared her guilty on 8 counts and sentenced to 4-12 years followed by deportation. Sorokina, now 31, remains under ICE custody for violating visa stay duration post a 2021 release from Riker’s prison.
Who’s at fault?
Anna, with no proof of funds and assets, had faked her way to the top. Her actions are a testament to how wall street and other elite institutions function. The finance executives who nearly lent her the $40 million dollars were willing to do so with little to no due diligence.
While infrastructure projects to repair toxic water supply or dangerous roads go unfunded in the US, wall street continuously lends to big names and their leisure projects.
While Sorokin was rightly charged and convicted for her financial crimes, it’s apparent that a deeply flawed and rigged system enabled her.