The phone rings and the caller needs no introduction. The hybrid accent — flecked with vowels that fall somewhere between Moscow and Manhattan, via Berlin — gives her away; it smacks of fancy finishing schools, trust funds and a leisured and affluent lifestyle.
But there’s another instantly identifiable element to this telephone call: it’s preceded by a pre-recorded message which announces that it’s coming from a prison — the Orange County Correctional Facility in upstate New York, to be precise.
And the caller? Her name is Anna Sorokin — best known to the world as Anna Delvey — the notorious fake German heiress and convicted trickster who was jailed in 2019 for a series of jaw-dropping frauds that scandalised New York’s wealthy art scene.
Posing as a glamorous — and highly plausible — art lover and socialite, she had spent ten months duping banks, law firms, hotels, fashion designers, a private jet company and supposed friends out of £211,000 after arriving in the U.S. in 2017.
The world was gripped by her month-long trial. Jurors heard how she’d taken up residence in splashy boutique hotels in downtown Manhattan, dressed in Balenciaga and Celine, patronised expensive restaurants and threw crisp $100 bills around like confetti to waiters, concierges and drivers.
In reality, the so-called trust-fund babe who had boasted of having a £60 million fortune overseas was, in fact, the penniless daughter of a Russian truck driver who’d moved his family to Germany.
Jailed for four to 12 years, she was released early on February 11 last year and is now the subject of a ten-part Netflix series about the convicted fraudster’s life.
Called Inventing Anna, and starring Julia Garner of Ozark fame, it debuted on Friday and instantly shot up the rankings to become Netflix’s most-watched show over the weekend in both the UK and U.S.
Anna Sorokin — best known to the world as Anna Delvey — is a notorious fake German heiress and convicted trickster who was jailed in 2019 for a series of jaw-dropping frauds that scandalised New York’s wealthy art scene
‘I want to see the series, but it will have to wait till I’m out of jail,’ says Anna (who is now back behind bars), in an exclusive interview with the Mail.
‘Obviously, I can’t get a Netflix account while I’m incarcerated.’ Although she has co-operated with Shonda Rhimes, the Bridgerton producer who made the series, Anna says she has no idea if the drama will offer a fair portrayal.
‘I’m the only person who can tell my story. No one else was with me the whole time, when all those things were happening,’ she comments.
To this end, she is writing her memoir in prison. ‘That’s the only good thing I’ve been able to achieve while I’m in here — I definitely have a lot of time to write. I’m in talks with different publishers,’ she says. The irony of Anna, 31, being unable to see the television series based on her own life won’t be lost on some of her victims, including Marc Kremers, owner of Future Corp, a London and Paris-based digital agency whose clients include luxury fashion brand Moncler, artist Damien Hirst and New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
He says he is still owed £16,800 for branding work he did for Anna’s grandiose plan to start a £25 million private members’ club to showcase what she claimed was her wealthy family’s art collection. ‘She’d tell me: ‘Don’t worry, it’s just this little hitch with the transfer of my funds.’
‘But every single day, every single week, for more than a year, there were different excuses,’ he recalls.
After being released on parole last year, anyone who thought Anna Sorokin would slink away quietly was in for a surprise.
She immediately set about picking up the threads of her old life, booking into the upmarket NoMad hotel in New York and striking magazine and TV deals.
She wanted to start her own clothing label, and was planning to launch The Corrections Collection of ‘prison-style loungewear’.
This image released by Netflix shows Julia Garner in a scene from ‘Inventing Anna.’
There was talk of printing T-shirts with the QR code of Anna’s bank on it, so people could send her money. Other T-shirts would have phrases such as ‘Anna Delvey — bigger than El Chapo’ and ‘Anna Delvey — she’s got more deals than Netflix’.
There were even plans for an underwear line that would play on the name of Kim Kardashian’s range, Skims. Anna’s version would be called Scams.
Anna had to report regularly to her parole office in Gowanus, an unglamorous area of Brooklyn. Some convicted white-collar criminals might think this duty was something to be done as discreetly as possible. But not Anna.
She turned it into a fashion show, dressing in her beloved Balenciaga and posing for the dozen or more paparazzi trying to take her picture when she came out of her hotel. She would even order a limousine or an SUV to take her to her parole appointment.
According to her Instagram account at the time — she still has 150,000 followers — it was business as usual. Anna posted a photograph showing her eating caviar and drinking champagne with a friend, as well as a picture of a carrier bag from high-end retailer Net-A–Porter.
All of this was apparently being funded by what was left of the £235,000 she had made through the Netflix deal, after she’d paid £147,000 in restitution to creditors like banks and hotels, plus £17,500 in fines.
She persuaded a U.S. television channel to buy her an expensive new wardrobe in return for an interview. She dined in expensive restaurants, even though she had to be back in her hotel early because of a 9pm curfew imposed by her parole conditions.
Douglas Higginbotham, a British cameraman and producer who is now based in New York, acted as her personal videographer and de-facto publicist.
He recalls how Anna would comment on Twitter when the New York District Attorney made announcements on the subject of law and order.
‘I’d say: ‘What are you doing? It’s like throwing stones at a lion. Delete that!’,’ he says. ‘I felt like her dad sometimes.’
On her own Instagram account, Anna boasted: ‘I own this ****ing lawless city.’
But her hubris was to prove her downfall and the authorities clearly didn’t take kindly to such displays of bravado. Everything came crashing down for Anna once more when — after just six weeks of freedom — she was re-arrested and taken into custody for overstaying the tourist visa she’d used to enter the U.S.
Since March 26 last year, she has been back behind bars and her designer wardrobe has been swapped for a prison jumpsuit. Her eyelash extensions fell out a couple of weeks into her detention, and she says she has been thoroughly ‘de-glammed’.
‘Sure, I miss nice clothes and make-up but that’s not the primary thing I’m concerned about,’ she complains.
‘I miss not being able to do things for myself and I hate having other people have so much control over my life.
‘I feel people don’t see that I’m trying to fix things and move on from my crimes and the events that happened to me in my 20s.
‘Hopefully, I will be able to turn it around. But so far that hasn’t been the case.
‘I do accept responsibility for some of the choices I made, but I never said that everything in my life was so great and so awesome that people should go and do the same thing.
‘I was trying to do something good with the situation I ended up with, but I’ve never said that I should be an example for anyone.’
Her comments are in stark contrast to remarks she made in interviews last year. Then, she told the New York Times: ‘The thing is, I’m not sorry. I’d be lying to you and to everyone else and to myself if I said I was sorry for anything.
‘I regret the way I went about certain things.’
Similarly, in an interview on BBC2’s Newsnight, presenter Emily Maitlis asked Anna whether she thought that crime paid. ‘In a way, it does,’ she smirked.
Both interviews were brought up during a deportation hearing that followed when the judge called her a ‘danger to society’ and ordered her to be deported from the U.S. This is on hold while Anna appeals in her last roll of the dice. ‘When I was first in prison for my crimes, I felt like that was my sentence and I was supposed to be there, but right now it feels completely unfair,’ says Anna.
‘I never scammed people — my crimes were against financial institutions. The definition of fraud in America is that you permanently deprive people of funds or property, and I don’t feel as though that was ever my intention.’
Judge Diane Kiesel sentenced Anna Sorokin a/k/a Anna Delvey to 4-12 years in prison, $198,956.19 restitution and a $24,000 fine for stealing more than $200,000 and attempting to steal millions more through multiple scams
In the Netflix series, Anna’s character says that men hype their financial backgrounds all the time and there are no consequences for them — much less jail time.
Does she feel that she’s been harshly treated because she’s a young woman?
‘I do in a way, yes,’ she replies. ‘I’m trying to own up to what I did, but if you look at other people, they get away with a lot more than I did.
‘But I’m trying not to think of myself as a victim because that’s a toxic way of thinking.’ As well as the memoir she is writing, Anna says she has other projects ready for when she is finally released from detention. ‘I’m in talks with some galleries about showings of my art; I’m finishing my book; I’m planning my clothing line and I’m working on a podcast as well.’
In deportation cases, people are typically banned from re-entering the U.S. for ten years.
Several times Anna has been told that she is being sent back to Germany, and a few weeks ago she was taken to New York’s JFK airport and was about to be put on a plane to Frankfurt when her lawyer intervened. ‘I feel as though my whole life is in New York, and most of my friends. I have so much history there and so much going on. I would really love to resolve my immigration situation,’ she says.
Over the telephone, it’s clear that she is sobbing. ‘It’s difficult every day and it’s very hard for me not to cry,’ she says. ‘I feel like there’s no ending to this, and I don’t know what’s going to happen.’
While Douglas Higginbotham says he doesn’t condone Anna’s crimes, he feels that she has been punished enough.
‘If she does have to leave the States, I think she will feel utterly defeated,’ he says.
‘New York is the place she wants to be. She wants to live this life; she wants to live like Jeff Bezos.’
Not surprisingly, Marc Kremers, still looking at his unpaid invoice, sees things differently. ‘I think she’s a fantasist and now her fantasy has become intrinsically entwined with her life. But I can’t deny that it’s an entertaining story to tell my clients. Everyone wants to talk about Anna Delvey.
‘It’s annoying that people still admire her and believe she had guts to play this big, elaborate trick on New York.
‘But when people take you for a ride like that, it’s a horrible feeling.’
As for Anna, she says she just wants the chance to prove herself. ‘I know I made questionable choices, but to the people who think badly of me, I’d like the chance to prove them wrong,’ she says.
Even though she is locked up and facing deportation from the United States, only one thing is certain: we certainly haven’t heard the last of Anna Sorokin.
Anna Sorokin has not received any fee for this interview.