When it comes to socialite scandals of the previous decade, one tale rules them all.
The New York elite were rocked in 2017 when it was revealed that one of their own, Anna Delvey, was revealed to have been a fraud all along.
Having first started showing up regularly on the New York social scene in 2013, little was known about Anna, even by her closest inner circle – one thing known to everybody, however, was that Anna was one of the city’s wealthiest young women.
Whilst staying at upmarket New York hotel 11 Howard, Anna had quickly garnered a reputation for her extravagant spending habits. After booking her initial month-long stay at the establishment in a luxurious $400-a-night suite, it quickly became clear that Anna had no intentions of leaving when the time arrived to check out, always opting to extend her stay – the hotel, she promised, would have the total payment for her time there paid via wire transfer once she decided to move on.
It was an unusual agreement, but one that the hotel allowed – perhaps due in part to the extravagant tips that Anna regularly handed out to those who worked there. Anna ensured that no favour at the hotel went unrewarded and the rewards were always far in excess of what staff might have expected for the task. If you so much as took her bags to her room or called a cab for her, you’d likely be handed upwards of $100 cash in return. Staff have since remembered arguments breaking out amongst the team about Anna, everyone putting forward their case as to why they should be the lucky one tasked with dropping a package at her door in exchange for an attractive tip.
Whilst this, in itself, was proof of Anna’s unusual dynamic with hotel staff, it ultimately went even deeper. Weeks into her stay at 11 Howard, she began to form a friendship with the hotel’s concierge, Neff Davis. Neff recalls Anna beginning to stop by the front desk for chats on a regular basis – usually on her way in following an extravagant business dinner or exclusive function. She gave away little about herself, usually making small talk about her day or asking for restaurant recommendations, most of which she would ultimately dismiss in favour of making her own decisions. After a while, these short chats turned into hours of Anna sitting herself down at the front desk to make conversation with Neff, often with an expensive meal or bottle of fine white wine in tow. It became clear to Neff that what Anna really wanted was a friend.
This was confusing to Neff for several reasons. First off, when Neff and Anna began to see each other outside of 11 Howard – with Anna beginning to treat her as something of a personal assistant – their conversations never seemed to be any more revealing than they ever had been. Anna seemed reluctant to give anything away about her past or even really about herself. It was also strange to Neff that Anna would choose to spend so much time with her when Anna appeared to know everyone – though, admittedly, most of the friendships she shared with other members of New York society seemed to be just as shallow. Nobody amongst the elite seemed to think this was all that strange, though. After all, in New York, money talks – and Anna, with her purse perpetually open, was always the loudest in the room.
During the time she spent with Anna, Neff witnessed the heiress spend $4,500 on personal training sessions, hundreds of dollars a night dining out and, let’s not forget, run up thousands of dollars on her bill at 11 Howard. Anna always paid in cash, too – and when there was no cash at hand, her bank conveniently seemed to be experiencing afterwards. Of course, Anna always gave her word that she’d pay her lenders back – eventually.
After a while, it became clear to all around Anna that the day where they’d see their money back would never arrive. Her downfall came when increasing suspicions surrounding her financial status saw 11 Howard lock Anna out of her opulent suite and place all her belongings in storage. Soon after, it was revealed that Anna Delvey was really Anna Sorokin, a young woman from Germany who had submitted documents under a false name in order to secure loans in excess of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Once her house of cards came crumbling down, Anna was forced to face the consequences, being charged with grand larceny and on several counts of theft of services. She was ultimately sentenced to 40 months in prison for her crimes.
Released in February 2021, Anna’s life had all but fallen apart. Gone was the illusion that she had any money to pay back her various lenders or that the New York arts & social club chain she’d planned to open with the help of wealthy investors had any chance of getting off the ground. Anna needed a plan. Luckily, interest in her story was high.
Taking to the internet, Anna quickly rebranded her Instagram, altering her bio to read ‘Reinventing Anna / Professional Defendant’ and beginning to post photos of her post-prison lifestyle to her 133,000 followers. It became clear that, at least by the looks of things, her post-prison lifestyle had plenty in common with her time as a socialite, except this time with even more eyes on her – she was photographed in the street by the news media, splashed across the pages of glossy magazines where she gave unapologetic interviews about her crimes and even continued to stay in upmarket NYC hotels.
To anyone who might have hoped that prison time had given Anna chance to reflect on her crimes and feel any sense of regret over them, her behaviour on social media would undeniably be a source of instant disappointment, as she joked about the events of the last few years and even captioned photographs with tongue-in-cheek statements such as ‘Used to be such a nice girl before they put me in prison’. She even began work on a line of apparel parodying the logo of the British publication The Daily Mail, which she prepared to release under the brand name DelveyMail.com, as a middle finger to the scrutiny of the media.
Not all of her post-release income came from her own endeavours, either, as production companies, biographers and filmmakers scrambled to secure the rights to tell Anna’s story through various means. Most notably, a deal between Anna, Netflix and famed producer Shonda Rhimes to produce a mini-series for the streaming giant saw Anna receive a $140,000 advance – though this was ultimately frozen when Anna was sued New York Attorney General’s office under the Son Of Sam law, which prohibits felons from profiting from their crime’s publicity. However, this didn’t affect her other business ventures, which she continued to take advantage of in order to fund her still-lavish lifestyle.
What goes up must go down, however – and Anna went down, once again, in shocking fashion. Less than two months on from her release, it was found that Anna had overstayed her visa, leading her to be taken back into custody by the ICE. Right now, she remains behind bars, where she awaits deportation to her home country of Germany.
The future for Anna is unclear, though there’s little doubt that she’ll go on to make plenty of money once she’s back in her home country. Public opinion of Anna has always been divided, though many are less outraged by her crimes and more in awe of the fact she was able to pull it off. Anna, in her own words, ‘finessed’ the system in a way that few would even attempt – and she succeeded in doing so for years. It’s a story that remains of interest to thousands and likely will do for some time, both in her home country and around the world.
The New York chapter of this story, however, is well and truly over – though Anna seemed to end it in characteristically bold fashion. Shortly before being taken into custody for the second, she shared one final Instagram post.
“They already told you,” she wrote, captioning a photograph on the streets of NYC, “I own this lawless fucking city.”