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Friday 20 September 2019

Woman accused of fraud over ‘German heiress’ ruse

Anna Sorokin faces several charges in New York after she allegedly posed as a millionaire to mingle in celebrity circles.

Anna Sorokin (AP)
Anna Sorokin (AP)

By Michael R Sisak

A 28-year-old woman who claimed to be a German heiress, mixing in celebrity circles and living a jet-set lifestyle, is due to face charges in New York over claims she swindled hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Prosecutors claim Anna Sorokin conned friends, banks and hotels for a taste of the high life.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office alleged she lived in luxury New York City hotel rooms she could not afford, promised a friend an all-expenses-paid trip to Morocco before leaving her with the 62,000 dollar (£47,000) bill, and peddled bogus bank statements in a quest for a 22 million dollar (£16 million) loan.

On Wednesday, the one-time darling of the Big Apple social scene is scheduled to stand trial on grand larceny and theft of services charges alleging she swindled 275,000 dollars (£208,000) in a 10-month odyssey that saw her jetting to Omaha and Marrakesh before landing in a cell at Rikers Island prison.

After Sorokin’s arrest in 2017, prosecutor Catherine McCaw said: “Her overall scheme has been to claim to be a wealthy German heiress with approximately 60 million dollars in funds being held abroad.

“She’s born in Russia and has not a cent to her name as far as we can determine.”

Sorokin’s lawyer, Todd Spodek, said at a hearing last month that Sorokin is “presumed innocent and never intended to commit a larceny”.

The 28-year-old, who has been held in jail since her arrest, faces deportation to Germany regardless of the outcome of the trial because authorities say she overstayed her visa.

Her story, however, may stick around. Shonda Rhimes, the force behind TV shows Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, has announced she is creating a series about Sorokin, whose Instagram bio says: “Soon on Netflix”.

She's born in Russia and has not a cent to her name as far as we can determine. Prosecutor Catherine McCaw

Sorokin arrived in a world of champagne and caviar in 2016 with a new name (Anna Delvey) and an expensive wardrobe. She made a show of proving she belonged, passing 100 dollar bills to Uber drivers and hotel concierges as tips, but she gave varying accounts for the source of her wealth, according to people who knew her.

At different times, they said, she would claim her father was a diplomat, an oil baron or a solar panel entrepreneur. In reality, her father told New York magazine, he is a former trucker who runs a heating-and-cooling business.

At first, people around Sorokin did not see a red flag when she asked them to put cabs and plane fares on their credit cards, telling them she had trouble moving her assets from Europe. Many laughed it off as forgetfulness when they had to hound her to pay them back.

“It was a magic trick,” Rachel Williams, her friend from the Morocco trip, wrote in Vanity Fair.

“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.”

As she ingratiated herself in the New York party scene, prosecutors said, Sorokin started talking up plans to spend tens of millions of dollars building a private arts club with exhibitions, installations and pop-up shops. She thought about calling it the Anna Delvey Foundation.

Sorokin kept up the heiress ruse as she went looking for a 22 million dollar loan for the club in November 2016, prosecutors said. She claimed the loan would be secured by a letter of credit from UBS in Switzerland and showed statements purporting to substantiate her assets, according to an outline of the charges.

One bank rejected Sorokin because she “did not have sufficient cash flow to make loan payments”, prosecutors said. It is alleged that she bailed on another firm when it pressured her for a meeting with a UBS banker who could verify her assets.

During the process, prosecutors said, Sorokin convinced one bank to lend her 100,000 dollars (£76,000) to cover due diligence costs. It is alleged she ended up keeping 55,000 dollars (£41,000) and “frittered away these funds on personal expenses in about one month’s time”.

A few months later, in May 2017, Sorokin allegedly chartered a plane to and from the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, but never paid the 35,400 dollar (£27,000) bill.

Broke and facing a big bill at a Manhattan hotel in July 2017, Sorokin pleaded with a police officer that a bailout was on the way, prosecutors said.

According to court documents, Sorokin said: “I have no money and no credit cards. I’m waiting for my aunt from Germany. She’s going to pay.

“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.”

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