The new life of socialite scammer Anna Sorokin: Wannabe artist and prison reform activist

The young woman who duped Manhattan’e elite while posing as a rich European heiress has been released early from a four-year jail term and aims to stay in the US

Anna Sorokin
Anna Sorokin arriving in court on October 11 in New York.YUKI IWAMURA (AFP)

Perhaps the only reliable thing about Anna “Delvey” Sorokin’s life is the Netflix series Inventing Anna depicting the lie that ushered her into the arms of the New York elite as a wealthy European heiress. The rest of her existence may or may not be true, including the versions pedaled by Sorokin, 31, in interviews given after being conditionally released from jail, wearing an electronic ankle bracelet. After spending nearly four years behind bars for fraud, and 17 more months in an immigration detention center, Anna Sorokin is living proof that you can’t “correct” guile; it simply assumes a different guise.

Now under house arrest, Sorokin is making the most of her jailtime, which she talks about as if it were a minor setback, rather than a punishment for a crime. “When I saw the headlines ‘con woman, fake heiress’, I didn’t see myself as such, at all,” she told The New York Post. “I never told anybody how much money I had. I never pretended to be anything. Somebody assumed I had all this money just because I was working on this project [the alleged creation of a private club and art foundation]. I feel like that’s their problem.” A thinly veiled version of the blunt statement uttered in 2019 to The New York Times the day after she was sentenced: “I’m really not sorry.”

The first real difference between the lives of Delvey – the surname she adopted that was in her words, “random … it doesn’t have a background” – and Sorokin is the radical change of scenery: from the luxurious Manhattan hotel suites she stayed in as Delvey while duping banks and financial institutions in a bid to secure a $22 million loan to the fifth floor walk-up in an East Village apartment block where she has been since early October. The apartment has one bedroom and basic amenities. According to The New York Post, the property was listed for $4,250 a month, the average rent in New York after the stratospheric price hike caused by inflation. On the building’s rooftop, Sorokin takes part in photo shoots for various brands: fashion has always been her passion.

Her main aim is to avoid extradition to Germany; she is determined to stay in the US, where life is not exactly cheap. Nor, to complicate matters, are her habits: in order to appear before the judge as stipulated by the terms of her release, Sorokin, arrived in an Uber that cost her $160 dollars. While many New Yorkers have resigned themselves to using public transportation due to the rise in Uber fares, Anna is not ready for a downgrade. When asked by reporters why she had not come on the subway, she replied, “I’m allowed to use any means of transportation – should I have opted for the subway? Mmmm... no,” she said.

Sorokin received $320,000 (€327,000) from Netflix for the rights to her story for Inventing Anna, starring Julia Garner. But that money went towards paying lawyers and restitution for her crimes. “That money was gone before I left prison,” she told The New York Post. “New York is so expensive, it’s crazy. It cost me like $160 to Uber back and forth to my parole in Brooklyn!” The Uber service was not the platform’s most basic and economical offer either, judging by the images of her getting out of an imposing SUV.

Born in Russia and raised in Germany with a European passport, Sorokin is convinced that she has to make her life in New York, a city where the mirage of success is often nothing more than an optical illusion. Surviving here without money is impossible, but not for Sorokin, who has found a source of income in the drawings she did while in prison. Going for $10,000 a piece – the price of the deposit on her apartment – the sketches of her life behind bars, one of which depicts her meeting with actress Julia Garner, have already attracted a number of customers. Another of her initiatives involves launching a podcast. “Not all my ideas are illegal!” she jokes.

Besides money-making ventures, Sorokin also volunteers as a mental health coach, to help others cope with “conflict resolution” in a stressful prison environment. And she says she wants to get involved in prison reform.

Anna Sorokin at her trial in the New York Supreme Court on April 25, 2019.
Anna Sorokin at her trial in the New York Supreme Court on April 25, 2019.Richard Drew (AP)

After her visa expired, Sorokin chose to spend 17 months in an immigration detention center to avoid deportation and stay in the US. She wants to obtain a visa that will allow her to work in the country and is awaiting a decision on her case, which could take months. She fears that if she is deported to Germany, she could end up in Russia, where she was born and spent her childhood in a modest home in a working-class district of Moscow. She was 16, when her father, a truck driver, and her mother, the owner of a small convenience store, decided to leave. “Me staying and trying to fix this, it shows so much about my character,” she added of her American dream. “I think it speaks louder than 1,000 words.”

After a brief stint at the prestigious London design school St Martin’s, the impish Sorokin worked at a German public relations firm. She then left for Paris and, in 2013, landed in New York, already armed with a fake name and plans to open a private club/ art foundation for the elite of the elite. She falsified accounts and cheated banks and spent long periods in several luxury hotels in Manhattan, which she left without paying. She was arrested in 2017 at a luxury rehab facility in Malibu, but has always been coy about speaking of her time there. Then came her trial, conviction and residence in an upstate New York jail, from which she was released for good behavior. Prior to that, there was a spell in Rikers Island, New York’s massive jail complex, regarded as a black hole in the US prison system where, she says, she took “crash course on how to solve conflict and problems.”

At best, Sorokin’s vicissitudes will be lost in the froth of New York; at worst, they will be used by the media to glamorize fraud. Which version the viewer is left with will depend on them: in the hands of a textbook manipulator like Sorokin, no story is to be taken at its word.

Inventing Anna Julia Garner
Julia Garner plays Anna Sorokin in the Netflix series 'Inventing Anna'.©Netflix/Courtesy Everett Collection / Cordon Press

More information

Archived In

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS