Anna Delvey had all the familiar—and annoying—features of a trust fund kid: the designer clothes, the nights out at expensive New York bars, even the low-paying internship that’s really just for…like…fun? But something was different about Anna Delvey: Her entire life was a lie. Anna Delvey didn't even exist. Her list of conquests includes swanky hotels, national banks, and even some oh-so-fabulous stars of the art and fashion world. Anna Sorokin lived every millennial’s dream—until it all came crashing down around her.
Anna Sorokin was born in Domodedovo, Russia on January 23, 1991. The unexciting town of under 100,000 people sits blandly on the outskirts of Moscow. Her parents were also pretty normal: Her father drove a truck, and her mother owned and operated a convenience store. It was a humble beginning for a life that would suddenly become excessively lavish, dangerously deceitful, and end up with a stint at Rikers Island Prison.
It could have been the family’s move to Germany that set Sorokin off on her adventure. She was attending a Catholic grammar school and classmates described her as shy. You see, Sorokin was trying hard to learn German—but failing miserably. This caused her to isolate herself from her peers and sent her deeper into her obsession: fashion. She devoured magazines, fashion blogs and anything about design she could get her little hands on.
Sorokin was planning her escape from her parents, and from Germany. She desperately wanted to take the life she saw in magazines and make it hers—no matter what the cost.
Sorokin graduated from high school in June 2011, and made her move swiftly. She talked her parents into paying for art school in London. It‘s not clear how they could afford such an extravagance, as Dad was running an HVAC company and mom was a housewife. It must have taken an extreme amount of manipulation to convince her cash-strapped parents to get on board.
Which makes what she did when she got there all the more baffling.
Once Sororkin had freed herself from her parents and Germany, she did something strange: She quit school. All the effort to get away went up in smoke for some unknown reason. Sorokin was soon back in Germany and again under her parent’s roof. Had London been too much for her? Was she not ready for life in a big city? Judging by her next move, the answer is a resounding no.
Sorokin did a brief internship in Berlin but then switched it up to Paris. Here she found something she could sink her teeth into: an internship with the French fashion magazine Purple. Sorokin was only making about $400 a month as an intern—not much loot for having fun in Paris. Lucky for Sorokin, her parents were actually footing the bill for her monthly rent—even though she barely ever contacted them.
Sorokin wasn’t exactly grateful for her parent’s help. In fact, her next move was to get rid of them altogether.
Even though her parents were 1,000 km (600 mi) away, she had a plan to distance herself from them even further. How? By changing her name. She told friends that she’d taken her new last name, Delvey, from her mother’s maiden name. Well, Sorokin’s parents later revealed something shocking: They’d never heard of the name before in their lives.
Sorokin’s lies, however, were just starting...
In 2013, Sorokin somehow managed to get herself to New York City for fashion week. She immediately decided she liked the Big Apple and basically refused to leave. She convinced Purple to let her continue her internship at the New York office. With her small salary from the magazine, and her parents’ monthly deposits, Sorokin managed to eke out a life in New York. But merely eking out a life wasn’t Sorokin’s style. She wanted what she’d seen in the magazines.
To live a more extravagant lifestyle, Sorokin came up with a ruse that would get her all kinds of stuff—and all of it for free.
Sorokin’s plan may seem kind of basic, but it certainly got results. Sorokin’s ploy was, when an evening of drinking ended up with a huge bill, to simply claim she’d forgotten her wallet. This worked not only for drinks, but also meals and even plane tickets. You see, Sorokin had quickly figured out something about rich New Yorkers. They didn’t mind picking up the tab as long...as they thought you didn’t actually need the money.
All she needed to do was convince them she wasn’t poor.
Sorokin eventually worked out a vague and completely false history of her life. She told friends and acquaintances that she was from a very wealthy German family. Her new persona also included bragging about her designer clothes and treating lowly wait staff with contempt. We’ve got to give Sorokin kudos for keeping up with this ruse. While she lived it up with the rich and famous, behind closed doors, her life was spiraling out of control.
History’s most fascinating stories and darkest secrets, delivered to your inbox daily. Making distraction rewarding since 2017.
After partying all night with her "friends," talking ad nauseum about her upcoming inheritance, and getting someone else to pay the bill—Sorokin’s finale to the evening’s deceitful behavior was even more outrageous: Asking for a place to sleep. The truth was she had nowhere to go. And if none of her “friends” had a couch for her to crash on, she’d do something even more shocking.
With no place to sleep and no friend to host her, Sorokin would wander the streets of New York looking for something. What her keen eye was hunting for was a car with an unlocked door. Once she found one, she’d have a free, safe, and somewhat warm place to crash. Sorokin was living an outrageous lifestyle that was based on lies.
It’s possible, however, that for Sorokin, the deceit was all part of an exciting game. A game that would soon have a disastrous conclusion.
Around this time, Sorokin met Michael Xufu Huang, who was somehow both a university student and an art collector. The two became close quickly, but Huang obviously had no idea who he was dealing with. Soon after meeting him, Sorokin persuaded Huang to let her join him at the prestigious Venice Biennale—of course she promised to pay him back for the plane ticket and hotel room.
Well, when they got back to New York, Huang was in for a surprise.
On their arrival back in New York, Huang said that Sorokin forgot all about paying him back—forgot all about their arrangement entirely. Naively, Huang assumed that Sorokin was just another absent-minded trust fund girl who’d reimburse him eventually. Her lack of payment didn’t stop Huang from attending Sorokin’s lavish birthday bash at Soho’s Sadelle’s.
When it came time to pay for the party—well, you can guess what happened.
Sorokin had used her credit card to employ the party planners for her birthday. By now, it shouldn’t surprise you that the card was worthless. The company wanted their money, but couldn’t find Sorokin anywhere. The company soon turned to social media to see who was at the party and could lead them to Sorokin. Bingo, they saw and recognized Huang and contacted him about the birthday girl.
Anna's web of lies was starting to unravel.
Huang was—finally—becoming suspicious. She’d stiffed the party planners, she never seemed to pay for anything, and she still owed him $3000 for the trip to Venice. Huang woke up and smelled the pour-over coffee. He marched right up to Sorokin and demanded the money she owed him. Huang surprisingly got his money—from a Venmo account he didn’t recognize. Huang then made the first wise move since meeting Sorokin: He blocked her on social media.
And in Sorokin-land that could only mean one thing: friendship over.
With Huang out of the picture, Sorokin was soon on the lookout for more rich and influential friends. She came upon Rachel DeLoache Williams at a nightclub. Williams was a photo editor at Vanity Fair—so, probably more influential than rich. Williams was initially not impressed with Sorokin. She was rude to wait staff and—horrors upon horrors—she didn’t let people off the elevator before getting on.
Williams was about to have a rude awakening: These petty offenses were nothing compared to what evil Sorokin had in mind for Williams.
If you were a friend of Sorokin’s at this time, you would be sure to know all about one thing: the Anna Delvey Foundation. This was an idea Sorokin had to build something beautiful: a private members’ club that also included a foundation. There would be a visual arts center and even pop-up shops. Sorokin talked about it non-stop.
The idea sounded big, but it was the location that pushed it over the top.
For her foundation, Sorokin set her sights on a building called the Church Missions House. This was an enormous and beautiful six-story historic building on Park Avenue. Sorokin couldn’t have been dreaming bigger. The property was hot and others wanted it, so Sorokin signed a lease with no money down. She’d bought herself a month—until the rent was due. Now she had to attract investors. To do that, she hit the New York clubs.
Sorokin now had a mission, and it was much bigger—and more dangerous—than just scamming a few drinks from friends.
Sorokin was good at getting important people excited about the Anna Delvey Foundation. She persuaded artist Daniel Arsham to curate the pop-ups. For exhibitors, she hit up the most influential artists in New York City: Urs Fischer, Jeff Koons, Tracy Emin, and even superstar Damien Hirst. Everyone seemed to be clamoring to get on board—at least according to Sorokin.
But were these artists really in, or was it just party chatter? To make her dream real Sorokin needed cash. And that’s where she found herself getting on the wrong side of the law.
To get a bank to even consider loaning her the money, Sorokin used her magic fingers on Microsoft Word. She created bank statements that indicated she was in the possession of €60 million—all of it in trust and all of it in Swiss bank accounts. Why in Switzerland? This gave her an excuse as to why she couldn’t touch the funds—at least yet.
It was the perfect cover. A young rich girl—who couldn’t actually pay for anything.
Sorokin used her false financial documents to hit up the big banks for loans. She was racing against time as she would soon have to pay the enormous rent for Church Missions House. City National Bank basically saw right through Sorokin: They dropped her when she couldn’t provide the sources for her money. Fortress Investment Group maintained their interest in Sorokin, but they required one little thing to process her application for a loan: $100,000.
The month had run out, and Sorokin wasn’t able to pay her rent at Church Missions House. Sorokin lost the building to Swedish photography exhibitor Fotografiska—and it devastated her. But she wasn't ready to throw in the towel just yet. She still needed $100,000 for the loan with Fortress. She went back to National City Bank and, by sheer power of persuasion, got a quickie loan of exactly the amount she needed.
Strangely, this was the same bank that, just weeks before, had said they didn’t trust her. Sorokin must have felt unstoppable—but her time was running out.
Sorokin took the $100,000 to Fortress as she had promised, but now this lender was also getting suspicious about her supposed fortunes. To remedy that, Sorokin created an imaginary friend: a family business manager named Peter Hennecke. Sorokin used a fake AOL email account so Hennecke could communicate with Fortress. Then when Fortress had issues with Hennecke, Sorokin did something drastic.
Fortress wanted proof of Hennecke’s existence, so Sorokin made him deceased and replaced him with another fake: Bettina Wagner. But there were other problems: Sorokin had said she was German, but her passport said she was born in Russia. Fortress was getting antsy, and they did the only sensible thing: They demanded to meet the bankers in Switzerland.
This was Sorokin’s worst nightmare—but it was even worse than she feared.
Sorokin knew the jig was up. She withdrew her application and asked for her $100,000 back—hoping to be able to give it back to City National with no harm no foul. Unfortunately, she got bad news from Fortress: they’d only give her $55,000 of it back. The rest had gone to processing her loan application. Sorokin was in extremely hot water. So what did she do? Something only Anna Sorokin would consider.
So what do you do when you're in extreme financial distress? Well, if you’re Sorokin, you hire a personal trainer, get your hair highlighted, and spend $400 on eyelash extensions. You then move into a $400 a night room in Soho and start buttering up the staff with $100 bills. This was how she chose to spend the remaining $55,000 that she owed City National Bank.
What she planned to do when they came asking for the money is anyone’s guess.
Life at the 11 Howard Hotel in Soho was great—but only for Sorokin. Her behavior there didn’t win her any fans among the staff. Employees said Sorokin was classist, impolite, and, worse yet, walked around the hotel in leggings and even a bathrobe. In true Sorokin style, she charged all her meals and room service to her room tab. Sorokin did eventually try to get the staff on her side, though.
She bought them manicures, massages, and even a bottle of expensive champagne, again all charged to her room. It was all going surprisingly well—until the hotel manager discovered something was very amiss.
Somehow Sorokin had managed to stay at the luxury hotel without handing over a credit card. When management realized this, they asked Sorokin to pay up immediately. The bill, after all, was getting close to $30,000. Luckily Sorokin still had the $55,000 from City National right? Wrong: She’d used it for the $100 tips and other luxuries.
Sorokin didn’t have the funds to pay her incredible hotel bill. What would she do now?
Sorokin continued to stay at 11 Howard, but was smart enough to avoid the hotel restaurant and bar. She supported her lavish lifestyle by going out with friends and using the old “I lost or forgot my credit card trick.” She also added a new version: “My credit cards don’t work here.” During this time, she was hanging around Home Alone star Macaulay Culkin and convicted felon and general bad guy Martin Shkreli.
As we’ll soon see, the latter would prove to be a very bad influence on Sorokin.
Eventually, management at 11 Howard caught up with Sorokin and insisted she pay her bill immediately. Sorokin was up against the wall, and only something drastic would get her out of trouble. She quickly deposited a bunch of checks in a Citibank account. The checks totaled $160,000, and they were all completely fake. Somehow Citibank let her have $70,000 from the checks, and Sorokin quickly wired the money to 11 Howard.
Problem solved...and now on to the next one.
Sorokin got the idea that she had to meet billionaire Warren Buffet—likely as a funder for her foundation. She found out that Buffet would be at the annual general meeting of the conglomerate Hathaway Berkshire in Omaha, Nebraska—and that’s where she planned to corner him. Of course, Sorokin didn’t consider taking the train, or bus to Omaha. She didn't entertain the idea of flying there in economy class, either. No, she knew she wanted to arrive in style, in order to get Buffet’s attention.
There was only one option: a private jet.
Sorokin approached Blade, a private aviation firm, about flying to Omaha. They only started to take her seriously when she handed them a wire transfer from Deutsche Bank that covered the $35,000 fee. The transfer was fake, but she still got her plane ride. No one really noticed Sorokin’s grand entrance—oops, waste of money—and she didn’t meet Buffet. She does claim to have partied with Bill Gates though—but do you really think he’s much of a partier?
Meanwhile, things back at 11 Howard were heating up—again.
While Sorokin was in Omaha, she was still hanging on to her $400 a night room at the 11 Howard hotel. Even though she’d paid in full, the hotel still wanted a credit card for her, and without it they were getting nervous. Eventually, the hotel made a decision—and it was harsh. They packed up Sorokin’s bags and put them in storage. Then, to make it even more final, they changed her room entrance code.
Sorokin came back from New York and made a grim realization: she was homeless.
No one kicks Sorokin out of a hotel—at least not without paying a dear price. Sorokin had learned something from fellow con man Shkreli. She bought domain names that corresponded with the names of the manager at the hotel. She then blackmailed them for $1 million dollars each. In the meantime, she got gal pal Rachel DeLoache Williams to help her move into The Mercer Hotel, and then The Bowery Hotel—paying for both with, you guessed it, more fake wire transfers.
Sorokin wanted a girl’s vacation to Morocco and came up with a plan for it to be free—well at least for her. She got Williams and her personal trainer Kacy Duke excited about the vacation idea. The best part? Because she was going to be making a video there for the Anna Delvey Foundation, Sorokin said she was going to foot the bill for everything. She even brought along a videographer.
The idea of a week in Morocco thrilled Williams and Duke—but really they should have turned and run away screaming. Yes, it was that bad.
Williams and Duke should’ve been suspicious before they even stepped onto the plane. You see, Sorokin somehow convinced Williams to put the money up for the flights—stating a problem with her credit card—with a promise to pay her back. Once they got to Marrakesh, Williams and Duke learned that Sorokin had booked a $7,000 per night home with three bedrooms, a swimming pool, and a designated butler.
Sorokin handed the resort her credit card, and the fun began.
It didn’t take long until the five-star resort realized Sorokin’s credit card was worth whatever amount of plastic it took to make it. The manager needed another form of payment, and Sorokin went through her usual litany of excuses. By the time the hotel stopped buying her made-up stories, the bill had reached a whopping $62,000. That’s when Sorokin turned to Williams.
From the start, Sorokin knew that Williams was no great source of income—but she knew the company she worked for, Vanity Fair magazine, had pretty deep pockets. Sorokin talked Williams into using her company credit card—and Williams' personal one—to pay the huge hotel bill. Williams had already paid for the flight, and also for any incidentals—including a private garden tour—with her own money.
Sorokin had originally told Williams that the trip was all expenses paid—Williams just didn’t know that it was her who would be paying for them.
Duke left Morocco early due to an illness, which left Williams, the videographer, and Sorokin. Williams, not wanting to get any further into debt, made a hasty retreat with the videographer, leaving Sorokin all by her lonesome. Tensions were probably a little high at the resort, so Sorokin hightailed it to a Four Seasons Hotel. Of course, her credit card still didn’t work, and Sorokin faced a serious situation: She couldn’t pay her hotel bill and had no way to get home.
Sorokin knew she’d bled Williams dry, so she called Duke.
Duke didn’t yet know about what Sorokin had done to Williams, she just heard Sorokin’s terrified voice on the phone. Duke knew she needed to help her friend, so she convinced the people at the hotel that Sorokin would pay them back. She then offered to buy Sorokin a plane ticket. Sorokin was beyond grateful, but seemed a little less so when she said through her tears: “Can you get me first class?”
Once back in the states, Williams realized how big her problem was. The one-week trip had cost Williams more than her entire annual salary, and putting it on a company credit card meant she risked losing her job. Williams became even more desperate when Sorokin stopped answering her requests for repayment. Things were bad: Williams had no money for her rent, which meant she could get fired and evicted—maybe even on the same day.
Williams finally received a message from Sorokin: Payment was coming. Relief washed over Williams like a summer rain.
Williams got the payment from Sorokin, but it wasn’t for $62,000—only $5,000. Williams' sense of relief dried up as quickly as it had arrived. She still needed to pay back Vanity Fair or lose her job. Meanwhile, Sorokin was trying to distance herself from Williams. She moved into the Beekman Hotel and then the W at Union Square; anywhere that would take her in without a valid credit card.
But Sorokin had made a serious mistake. She’d assumed that Williams was a pushover who would just pay up and disappear. Rachel Williams, however, was ready to rumble.
In the fall of 2017, Sorokin had checked herself into rehab at Passages Malibu in California—maybe to avoid seeing Williams. In the meantime, Williams was working with the NYPD. They were ready to take Sorokin in, but they needed her out of the rehab center to do it. That’s where Williams came in handy. She pretended to be in California and offered to let bygones be bygones and to buy her dear old friend lunch.
Of course, that was the one thing Sorokin couldn't say no to: free lunch.
Once Sorokin stepped off the property at Passages Malibu, LAPD officers stepped in and put the cuffs on. It was over. They were charging her with six separate counts of grand larceny, and other charges related to hotels, bad checks, and dishonest loan applications. Sorokin immediately rejected a plea deal, which would’ve got her a three to nine-year sentence.
Sorokin wanted a trial.
Like most things in Sorokin’s life, her trial was an event. She did something that maybe no one on trial has ever done: she hired a stylist. The stylist selected her outfits, which included pieces from Michael Kors and Victoria Beckham. On one day of the trial, Sorokin kept the judge waiting for an hour and a half, because she was having a tantrum. Why? No one had ironed her court outfit for the day.
She didn’t win any friends in the courtroom that day: and she needed them.
Sorokin’s attorney painted his client as a Frank Sinatra-type entrepreneur. The jury, on the other hand, painted Sorokin as just plain guilty—of most of the charges anyway. The judge sentenced her to up to 12 years in prison and a whole whack of repayment charges. In the end, Sorokin owed somewhere close to $300,000, but it could have been a lot more.
Where was the imprisoned Sorokin going to come up with that kind of money?
Sorokin knew that her story was hot—she was all over magazines and online publications. She wisely accepted a deal from Netflix and let them tell her story. The deal was for $300,000, leaving Sorokin with about $22,000 left for fun. Well, there wasn’t much fun in store for Sorokin in prison—or was there?
Sorokin said that prison wasn’t actually that bad. She decided to see it as a social experiment. She made friends there, saying that murderers were the most fascinating. She learned a few new useful skills as well, like how to rob someone’s identity. There were also dark times, like her 13 incidences of rule-breaking—for not listening to orders and fighting—and her Christmas day solitary confinement.
Sorokin served four years of her 12-year sentence before the courts released her on March 25, 2021. Six weeks later, Sorokin felt the cuffs on her again. Her visa had expired and government officials now wanted to send her back to Germany. At present, she’s waiting at ICE in New Jersey. Sorokin will do anything to stay in America, but, considering she’s completely unrepentant, does America actually want her?
The thing is, we only know about a portion of the money Sorokin had conned. Some of the people she cheated probably didn’t come forward about their lost money. There could be various reasons for this: being embarrassed they’d been fooled, not really caring about the money they’d lost, or maybe even not noticing the thousand of dollars that Sorokin had swindled from them.
In the wealthy, fashionable, and artistic circles of New York City, Sorokin had found her pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. When she conned the not-so-wealthy Williams, however, she found someone more than willing to fight to get back what was hers.
While in custody, Sorokin had an art exhibit in New York called “Free Anna Delvey.” The exhibit boasted art pieces by 33 artists who were somehow inspired by Sorokin’s life. Five drawings by Sorokin herself are priced at $1,000 each. Sorokin has also signed on for a docuseries that will tell her post-prison story. She has not only agreed to let the producers tell her story, but she will also star in it.
And, in case you were wondering, she’s still talking about the Anna Delvey Foundation.
My mom never told me how her best friend died. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery.
Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.
I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. I knew that she was going to take it badly, but I had no idea about the insane lengths she would go to just to get revenge and mess with my life.
Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history.
Want to tell us to write facts on a topic? We’re always looking for your input! Please reach out to us to let us know what you’re interested in reading. Your suggestions can be as general or specific as you like, from “Life” to “Compact Cars and Trucks” to “A Subspecies of Capybara Called Hydrochoerus Isthmius.” We’ll get our writers on it because we want to create articles on the topics you’re interested in. Please submit feedback to email@example.com. Thanks for your time!
Do you question the accuracy of a fact you just read? At Factinate, we’re dedicated to getting things right. Our credibility is the turbo-charged engine of our success. We want our readers to trust us. Our editors are instructed to fact check thoroughly, including finding at least three references for each fact. However, despite our best efforts, we sometimes miss the mark. When we do, we depend on our loyal, helpful readers to point out how we can do better. Please let us know if a fact we’ve published is inaccurate (or even if you just suspect it’s inaccurate) by reaching out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for your help!
The Factinate team
If you like humaverse you may also consider subscribing to these newsletters: