A Maximum of 12 Years in Prison: The Girl Who Lived like a Billionaire Before Being Charged with Grand Larceny

Anna Sorokin – or Anna Delvey, as she’s arguably better known – may be a name you recognize after she appeared in numerous newspapers around the world in 2018 as a result of being arrested and detained without bail while awaiting trial. She faced charges of six counts of grand larceny and attempted grand larceny, in addition to theft of services. A verdict was reached as of May 9, 2019. Anna has been sentenced to at least four years in prison, with a maximum of 12 years.

But what exactly did Anna do? This incredible story tells of a working-class Russian girl who posed as a German billionaire heiress in New York City, subsequently enjoying all the perks of the Soho socialite scene before her luck ran out completely. Keeping up this pretense for years, the now-27-year-old former fashion magazine intern swindled friends, colleagues, and service workers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars before her world came crashing down around her. Now a far cry from the pristine “it” girl clad in designer clothes that she posed as for years, Anna resides in Rikers Island Prison, and her future is unknown.

New York City’s “It” Girl

Anna Delvey was a woman who was well-known on the New York City socialite scene. “Anybody who was anybody” knew her – she was an “it” girl. If one were to ask where she came from, it’s unlikely that anyone would get the same answer twice. Anna told everyone that she had a 60 million euro trust fund that would cover her lavish lifestyle.

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She appeared in the Soho party scene and cunningly placed herself in all the places people wanted to be. She acted like she could do whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted – and everyone assumed that was because she had a lot of money. She even threw money around for food for the people who hung out with her. So, no one even thought to question her.

Ask No Questions, Hear No Lies

Anna moved around New York from hotel to hotel, occasionally leaving the country to restart her tourist visa. She didn’t have a permanent address – and again, everyone assumed she was so rich that she didn’t mind throwing away her money instead of investing in property.

Anna Delvey

Source: Time.com

That’s why, when Anna moved into a new boutique Soho hotel at 11 Howard Street, no one thought twice about it. In fact, the hotel didn’t even ask for a credit card – as far as the hotel manager was concerned, she knew so many of the “right” people, there was no doubt she was who she said she was. However, her story about the trust fund back home kept on changing. It was said her father was a diplomate, or an oil executive, or even an entrepreneur in solar panels.

Living the High Life

Anna lived the life of a celebrity while at 11 Howard and quickly became well-known among the hotel staff for her unwavering generosity. She would hand out $100 tips for even the simplest of tasks and soon became extremely popular as a result.

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A young woman named Nefertari Davis, known as “Neff” for short was working as the hotel concierge at the time and became immediately intrigued by Anna’s charisma and expensive designer clothes – and the fact she had booked her room for a month. Anna’s generosity stretched to Neff, too, with $100 bills frequently left at the concierge desk. She also like to go on big trips with her friends, where she would be in a bind getting her trust fund money, so her friends would pay for it. Still, no one thought that the situation was getting weird yet.

A Soho Socialite Worth Knowing

Neff, a budding cinematographer, felt that Anna would be someone beneficial to know – after all, her connections could only help further Neff’s career. And luckily, Anna seemed quite eager to get to know Neff, too. While this struck people as strange, Neff just brushed it off. Anna seemed like a nice person, like she was really just looking for some information.

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Anna would come down to the hotel’s front desk to ask for bar and restaurant recommendations, and Neff was happy to help as much as she could. However, it soon became apparent that her help wasn’t required and Anna already knew these places. She was so outgoing that she even knew the staff and owners. You would think at this point things would be clear.

Only Looking for Time

Neff began to grow suspicious, but it soon dawned on her that Anna wasn’t a guest that needed her information, but preferably someone who wanted her time. It seemed like she had all the money in the world, and no one there for her. She wanted a friend at the hotel and had chosen Neff – who wasn’t about to turn down the opportunity.

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“You just sit there and listen, because that’s your concierge life,” Neff later recalled. However, this went further than most concierge-guest relationships, as they soon began spending a lot of time together out of hours, visiting bars, clubs and restaurants around New York. Who doesn’t want to be taken out to just enjoy the luxurious lifestyle of someone who doesn’t see money as an object?

Never-Ending Supply of $100 Bills

Before long, Anna’s reputation as being one of the most generous guests at the 11 Howard hotel had been completely set in stone. Her $100 tips were unwavering, and the hotel staff couldn’t get enough of their flamboyant guest. “People would fight to take her packages upstairs,” said Neff. “Fight, because you knew you were getting $100.”

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It was slightly strange that Anna was never short of cash – and also that she used $100 bills exclusively. She never seemed to run out of them, and her generosity appeared to know no boundaries. No one knew where her money came from, nor did they ask.

A European Heiress on Vacation?

She gave to everyone,” said Neff. “Uber drivers, $100 cash. Meals — listen. You know how you reach for your credit card? She wouldn’t let me.” Anna even went as far as to get a personal trainer for $4,500 – a small price to pay, according to the socialite.

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It wasn’t just the huge amount of cash that Anna flashed about that convinced people in New York that she was wealthy – it was also her European accent. People assumed that she was the daughter of a wealthy European family and due to inherit a vast fortune – and Anna didn’t correct them.

Rubbing Shoulders with Celebrities

Anna began organizing and hosting large dinners at Le Coucou, a nearby French restaurant – an expensive one at that – for herself and associates. These events weren’t just extravagant; they were also star-studded. In attendance were CEOs, artists, athletes, and even celebrities.

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Much to her surprise, Neff was also invited to the dinners. One night she even found herself seated next to Macaulay Culkin, an experience she later described as being awkward. “I had so many questions,” she said, “And he was right there. But they were talking about, like, friend stuff. So, I never got the chance to be like, ‘So, you’re the godfather to Michael Jackson’s kids?’”

A Way with People

Anna was indeed living the high life in New York City, and it seemed as though nothing could stop her. Everyone enjoyed her company and saw no reason to question anything she said or did. Quite simply, Anna had a way with people – and she knew exactly how to use it to her advantage.

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One man who met Anna at Paris Fashion Week described her as a sweet and polite girl. According to his account, she merely introduced herself and was soon conversing and joking with him and his friends as though they had known each other for years. That was Anna’s main asset: she was a people person.

Getting to All the Right Places

According to those who knew Anna, “She managed to be in all the sort of right places.” A perfect example of this is when she arrived at a private party in Berlin on a private jet wearing expensive designer clothes. No one knew where any of this came from, though – and she never offered the information.

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There are so many trust-fund kids running around,” said a marketing director named Saleh who knew Anna. “Everyone is your ‘best friend,’ and you don’t know a thing about anyone.” Quite just, it was not like socialites to question anyone’s wealth – or its source.

Meeting Michael Xufu Huang

Anna met Michael Xufu Huang, a highly successful art collector and museum founder, at an art show while she was staying at 11 Howard. The two immediately bonded and soon became great friends – so much so that they went to Italy together to celebrate the Venice Biennale. There was just one thing that didn’t quite make sense.

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Anna asked Michael to put the flight and hotel on his credit card, which he later recalled that he found “a little weird.” She, of course, promised to pay him back. At the time, Michael brushed it off, as it wasn’t even that much money, in his opinion.

Flashing the Cash in Venice

While in Italy, Anna continued to pay for everything in cash, just like in New York. Michael noticed this and thought it was slightly odd, but again, he didn’t question it – assuming she was so rich that she carried a huge wad of cash around with her. The trip ended, but Anna seemingly forgot all about the money she owed Michael.

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Yet again, she got away with it – after all, incredibly wealthy people can often be forgetful about what they consider to be “minimal” amounts of money. This was pocket-change to Anna, so she’d probably forgotten – or so Michael thought. However, after some time, Michael forgot too.

A Birthday to Remember

Anna’s birthday came around, and she decided to throw herself a huge party in New York. She was determined to make sure it was to remember and even hired a PR firm to be in charge of the organization and guest list. Michael Xufu Huang was invited and attended, having not seen her since Venice.

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The party was a success, and everything seemed to go smoothly. However, a few days later, Michael received a message from the place the party was held asking for Anna’s contact information because “she didn’t pay her bill.” This was when things started to unravel for Anna.

Debating Theories of Origin

Just who was Anna Delvey and where did she come from? People began to wonder and question her fortune and its source. No one was quite sure about anything, and everyone who knew her had a different story about where they thought her family and her wealth came from.

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One friend was told that Anna’s father was a diplomat to Russia and that she had “family money.” Another heard that her father had a successful business in the oil industry. Yet another was told that her family dealt in antiques in Germany.

Speculation Contributes to Intrigue

No one was certain of where Anna and her wealth were from, and all the stories seemed to conflict. People began to talk about the once-revered socialite, and there was a lot of speculation. Anna’s peers were starting to question everything she’d ever told them.

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The speculations didn’t bother Anna. In fact, quite the opposite. The more people wondered who she was and where she came from, the more intrigue there was surrounding her. To Anna, that was only a positive thing. Plus, she had another ultimate goal in mind.

Dreaming of the Anna Delvey Foundation

Anna’s end goal was to establish an exclusive art club called the Anna Delvey Foundation (ADF). She hired London-based Marc Kremers, a creative director, to help her with the branding of this new venture. After scouting different spots around New York City, she eventually found the perfect location.

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Anna decided that she would take on the redevelopment of a location at 281 Park Avenue South. The only catch? She needed to take out millions of dollars in loans. Turning to her many connections once again, she found someone willing to help her.

Making Empty Financial Promises

Anna promised that she had the resources necessary to pay the loan back and that there would be no problems. She also promised not to embarrass the firm in any way, assuring them that everything would be successful. She was determined to make this venture work.

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Anna’s financial partner, who was helping her to purchase the location, wrote in an email that she needed the loan because “her personal assets, which are quite substantial, are located outside the US, some of them in trust with UBS outside the US.”

Taking Tips from Martin Shkreli

To alleviate financial concerns, Anna began fundraising and inviting even wealthier guests to her dinner events. This included the infamous “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli – the man received international criticism when his company raised the price of a critical medication from $13 to $750.

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He was later convicted of securities fraud and is currently in prison. “Anna did seem to be a popular ‘woman about town’ who knew everyone,” Shkreli wrote. “Even though I was nationally known, I felt like a computer geek next to her.” Anna also managed to pick up some tips from Shkreli that she’d later use.

The Beginning of the End

The ADF still hadn’t been established, but Anna wasn’t giving up. “She was always on the phone with lawyers,” said Neff, who would overhear conversations at the hotel. “They were always toning her down. Like, ‘Anna, you’re trying to make something that’s worth this much be worth that much, and that’s just not how it works.’”

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Soon after, Anna asked Neff to accompany her for dinner. When it was time to pay the bill, it became clear that Anna was having serious cash issues. One after the other, her credit cards were declined – around 12 of them. And for once, she had no $100 bills.

More Payment Problems Arise

However, the restaurant bill was the least of Anna’s worries – her world was about to come tumbling down around her. She still hadn’t paid for her stay at 11 Howard. In fact, they didn’t even have a credit card on file for her.

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The hotel had been treating Anna as a valued guest, as they were under the impression that she was a German heiress and a client of the hotel’s owner. They agreed to accept a wire transfer, but after a month and a half, still, no payment had been made.

In Over Her Head

The hotel’s manager asked Neff to approach Anna about the issue of her bill, considering that they were close friends. Although Anna owed the hotel around $30,000, Neff still believed that Anna would be able to pay, so agreed to talk to her about it. There was no way that she even considered that Anna would have been lying about her wealth this whole time.

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Anna promised Neff that a wire transfer was on the way from the bank, pretending that she didn’t know of any possible problems that could occur. She was in complete denial – at least to Neff – of how much she was in over her head.

In for a Rude Awakening

The hotel received a wire transfer on behalf of Anna for $30,000. Suddenly, just like that, everything was back to normal for the young socialite. Or at least that is what everyone thought – including Anna herself. But she was in for a rude awakening.

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The hotel still hadn’t received a working credit card number for Anna’s room. With bills racking up daily, the hotel manager was beginning to suspect Anna was deceitful about her wealth. He demanded a valid credit card and threatened to change the code to her room if she failed to provide one.

Starting to Play Dirty

Of course, Anna was unable to provide a valid credit card, so, true to the hotel manager’s word, the code to her room was changed, and she was, therefore, locked out. Anna was furious and resorted to a trick that she learned from Martin Shkreli.

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She told the hotel managers that she would purchase web domains in all of their names so that they would have to pay her one day to get them. In the meantime, however, Anna planned and went on a vacation to Morocco with her personal trainer and a videographer named Rachael Williams.

Unfolding Drama in Morocco

Unfortunately, Anna’s personal trainer got food poisoning and was forced to return to the US early. A few days later, the trainer got a call from Anna, who was hysterical because her credit card wasn’t working. As a result, the manager at the hotel was threatening to call the police and have her arrested.

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She pleaded to borrow her personal trainer’s credit card and promised to pay everything back as soon as possible. However, when that card didn’t go through, and another one after that, the hotel conceded that perhaps there was an issue on their end. Anna was off the hook once again.

The Streets of New York City

When Anna returned to the US, she moved into another hotel. However, when she was eventually unable to provide a valid credit card to pay her $11,518 debt, she was kicked out, and her belongings were confiscated. Anna was now effectively homeless on the streets of New York City.

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Anna’s hotel scheme worked once more, but only for a few days. Anna begged her personal trainer to let her spend the night at her apartment, making vague suicide threats. Although the trainer didn’t want Anna there and had a date over at the time, she felt it was an emergency, so conceded.

A Friend’s Final Straw

It was only then that Anna’s personal trainer discovered that the hotel bill from Morocco had, in the end, landed on Rachael Williams, the videographer. After being threatened with jail time, she was forced to put $62,000 on her American Express card, which was more than she made in a year.

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Anna’s personal trainer – who still to this day remains anonymous – was furious. As far as she was concerned, that was the last straw. She realized that she knew nothing about who Anna really was and that everything was suggesting she had been duped.

Running Out of Friends

The personal trainer told Anna to leave her house immediately. However, Anna left her laptop behind – perhaps to give her an excuse to come back. But the personal trainer wasn’t fooled and left the laptop at the front desk of her building for Anna to collect.

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Anna didn’t just come and quietly collect her laptop, however; she remained in the lobby, insisting on seeing her personal trainer and refusing to leave. But although the trainer was home, she refused to let Anna up. Anna was indeed running out of friends in New York City.

A Staged Restaurant Intervention

Before long, no hotel in New York City would let Anna stay, as they were all aware that she had no money. Reaching a point of pure desperation, Anna even begged one of her lawyers to stay over at his place. He, of course, didn’t agree, saying he didn’t want to bring Anna home to his wife.

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The lawyer did, however, get in touch with Anna’s personal trainer. She also declined to let her stay at her apartment but did invite Anna to a nearby restaurant. This was to be a staged intervention – the personal trainer and a group of other people Anna owed money to would be there.

A Harsh but Fair Meeting

Although the group intervention was harsh, it was fair. After all, Anna had effectively stolen tens of thousands of dollars from her so-called friends and colleagues. Anna started crying at one point, saying that she would have enough money to pay everyone back after she got her lease signed.

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That’s when they broke the news to her – the location that she wanted to purchase for the ADF had been rented to someone else. Anna brushed it off, stating that it was all “fake news.” Little did she know what was about to happen.

The Wannabe Socialite Sticks to Her Claims

Although articles were already being published about Anna, calling her a “wannabe socialite,” she stuck to the story that she had great wealth and remained unwavering in her claims that everything everyone was saying about her was a lie.

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However, when the intervention ended, Rachael wasn’t convinced. The next day, she emailed the New York District Attorney’s Office, including an article about Anna and the words “I think this woman is a con-artist.” It wasn’t long before Rachael received a call, the person on the other end saying: “We think you’re right.”

Making the First Arrest

Newspapers across the city had headlines such as “Wannabe Socialite Busted for Skipping Out on Pricey Hotel Bills,” and it wasn’t long before Anna was arrested for her outstanding hotel bills. She hired a lawyer and got out on bail. Unbelievably, from there, it was back to her usual tricks.

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Somehow, Anna gathered some funds and took a trip to California where she was arrested again, this time in Malibu. She was forced to return to New York to face six counts of grand larceny and attempted grand larceny, in addition to theft of services.

Finally Revealing the Truth

Anna was sent to Rikers Island jail but without bail this time. Currently, she is awaiting trial and faces a possible 15 years in prison. So, who really is the mysterious Anna Delvey – and is that even her name?

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Anna isn’t a German heiress after all. Her real name is Anna Sorokin, and she was born in Russia in 1991 to a working-class family who moved to Germany in 2007. When her parents were asked about the trust fund she claimed to have, they reportedly said that it was the first that they ever heard of it.

The Plea and the Counter Deal

However, despite being caught, Anna still tried to get out of paying for her crimes in full. It seemed as though she hadn’t learned anything. She offered the judge a plea deal of one to three years imprisonment, which was immediately rejected.

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Instead, the judge offered her a counter deal of between three to nine years in prison at most. Anna turned down the deal, electing to go to trial instead. She has since pleaded not guilty to grand larceny charges.

No Remorse for Appalling Actions

According to the judge at the trial, Justice Diane Kiesel, Anna has shown “no remorse” for her actions. Kiesel also stated that Anna’s plea offer of one to three years in prison was nothing more than a “mere slap on the wrist for a crime this serious.”

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Unfortunately for Anna, it looks like she has no one left on her side – and the judges seem determined to make an example of her. They seem more than willing to serve the harshest sentence possible, which is 15 years in prison.

More Concerned with Netflix Fame

While Anna awaits trial, there has been a significant amount of interest in her story from around the world. In fact, the subscription TV service Netflix has stated it is planning to make a series made based on her life. One of the judges in Anna’s case said: “She seems more concerned about who is going to play her in the movie than what she’s done to the people she allegedly took advantage of.”

Photo Credit: Alec Tabak for New York Daily News

Regarding being held at Rikers, Anna says: “This place is not that bad at all actually. People seem to think it’s horrible, but I see it as like, this sociological experiment.” Even her lawyer said that Anna appears to be doing very well in prison.

Learning the Tricks of the Trade

According to Anna’s lawyer, “She is like a unicorn in there.” She has reportedly made lots of friends in prison and finds the murderers the most fascinating of all the inmates. She takes pleasure in studying the inmates surrounding her.

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“This one girl, she’s been stealing other people’s identities. I didn’t realize it was so easy,” Anna said, sounding fascinated and leaving many people wondering if she is enjoying her time behind bars and learning more tricks of the trade at the same time.

Hanging onto the Dream

Meanwhile, Anna’s dream of founding the ADF has, unsurprisingly, completely fallen through. The space she was planning on using for the foundation at 281 Park Avenue South was leased out to a Swedish photography organization called Fotografiska – much to Anna’s dismay.

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She still speaks about opening her foundation, which she still intends to name after her alias, intending it to be an “arts-focused members club.” And while she does admit that she did some things wrong, she says that it “doesn’t diminish the hundred things” she “did right.” But how did she actually manage to deceive so many people?

Revealing the Method Behind the Madness

Experts on Anna’s case believe she scammed people and numerous banks and hotels out of around $275,000 in total. She allegedly used falsified documents showing that she had millions of dollars in banks in Europe to acquire loans from banks in the US.

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She also floated bad checks between banks and took out lines of credit that she had no way of paying back. Perhaps she planned to pay it all back after her business took off the ground, but it’s likely that she just enjoyed the lifestyle and was happy to do whatever it took to sustain it.

Perfecting the Art of Deception

Either way, despite obviously being incredibly deceiving and wrong, Anna’s success in fooling absolutely everyone around her for so long was quite ingenious. Through her art of deception, she was able to live a lavish lifestyle and con people out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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However, it was inevitable that she would eventually get caught. The only thing that might have saved her was if the ADF had been successful and brought in a profit. But that was not to be – and Anna’s world instead came crashing down.

The Future Is Unknown

Many posts have appeared on Anna’s Instagram account since her imprisonment in Rikers Island. It’s unlikely she’s doing this herself from prison, but the content of the posts is fascinating, as it suggests she loves all the fame and attention she has recently received.

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Although Anna is encouraging people to write to her while she is behind bars, she states that she won’t accept visitors from the media or people she doesn’t know. On December 18, 2018, Anna appeared in New York City Criminal Court and rejected a plea deal that would have her released from jail and deported back to Germany in early 2019. Anna decided to go to trial, and Judge Diane Kiesel has set a March 20, 2019 date.

Also, Jennifer Lawrence, the “Hunger Games” actress is whispered to be in the running to play the “scammer” in a possible film, as Shonda Rhimes’s Netflix series gets the go-ahead.