Inventing Anna: The Crime You Didn’t See Coming

Inventing Anna
Courtesy of Aaron Epstein / Netflix

Inventing Anna is a limited drama series streaming on Netflix, and it’s based on the true crime story of Anna Delvey, born Anna Sorokin. Under the false name “Delvey,” Anna posed as a wealthy and well-connected young socialite. But who is Anna Delvey, really? And how did she manage to scam multiple people out of hundreds of thousands of dollars? Here’s the true story behind Inventing Annathe white-collar crime no one saw coming.

Anna Sorokin was born in Russia on January 23, 1991. Her father was a truck driver, and her mother worked at a convenience store before leaving her job to be a stay-at-home mother. In 2007, Anna and her family relocated to Germany, and in 2013, she moved to Paris to become an intern for Purple, a French fashion and art magazine. Around this time, Anna started going by the last name “Delvey,” rather than Sorokin. During her time with Purple, Anna got her first taste of the glamorous socialite lifestyle.

Hungry for more, Anna’s next move was to New York, where she found it easier to make friends than in Paris or in Germany. In New York, Anna was able to completely reinvent herself as Anna Delvey, a rich young woman from an influential family. Anna quickly gained a reputation for spending lots of money, staying in New York’s most lavish hotels and eating at the finest restaurants. She was also well-known for being generous with her money, often buying gifts for others and tipping hundreds of dollars.

For a brief period of time, Anna worked at Purple‘s New York office, but she soon quit to focus on a new project she’d thought up: the “Anna Delvey Foundation.” Anna began telling people that her goal was to use her family’s trust fund money to build the foundation in the Church Missions House, a historic building at Park Avenue South and East 22nd Street in the Gramercy Park neighborhood. The foundation was to be a members-only club that consisted of a nightclub, juice bar, art space, studios, restaurants, and a German bakery.

As much as Anna Delvey loved her life in New York, she also loved to travel, and she soon made friends who became her travel companions. One of those people was Michael Xufu Huang, who was opening a private art gallery in China. The two traveled to Italy together, and Huang paid for the flight, hotel, and most of the travel expenses, under the impression that Anna would pay him back once they returned to New York. When they returned to New York, however, Anna conveniently forgot that she owed him any money. At this point, Michael started becoming suspicious that Anna might be a con artist. Of course, Michael was just one of the many people who were conned by Anna in this way. Several others had similar stories to share about money Anna owed them. And yet somehow Anna managed to continually convince people to pay the bills so she could keep up her lavish lifestyle.

Anna was globe-trotting, but she was also still working on funding her foundation. Anna initially reached out to Joel Cohen, who was known for prosecuting the Wolf of Wall Street, to help find investors. Cohen connected her with real estate partner Andy Lance, who ended up vouching for Anna, claiming she had the resources to pay for everything, but they were currently tied up overseas. With Cohen’s help, Anna was able to secure loans, which she then used to keep financing her rich socialite image.

In February 2017, Anna Delvey checked in to the 11 Howard, a hotel in SoHo. Because Anna knew the owner of the hotel, she convinced him to let her stay at the hotel without having a credit card on file. During Anna’s extended stay at the hotel, she tipped the hotel staff incredibly well and dined on expensive meals at Le Coucou, the hotel’s restaurant. By the end of her stay, Anna had racked up a $30,000 bill. While Anna was eventually able to wire money to pay the bill, she was still unable to provide a credit card, and so the hotel evicted her.

In May 2017, Anna invited three of her friends to accompany her to Morocco on a trip she promised she would pay for. But a few days after arriving in Morocco, the La Mamounia Hotel said that they had been unable to charge Anna’s credit card, and they demanded that Anna put another credit card on file. One of Anna’s travel companions, Rachel DeLoache Williams, eventually agreed to pay the $62,000 bill for their stay, under the assumption that Anna would pay her back.

After returning from her trip to Morocco, Anna checked in to the Beekman hotel in New York, once again without putting a credit card on file. But after three weeks of racking up a bill with no credit card, the Beekman also evicted her. She then tried to move to the W Hotel, but was kicked out after only two days. The Beekman and the W hotel went on to press charges against Anna. At the same time, Anna was being investigated for bank fraud.

In an attempt to escape her troubles, Anna Delvey cashed some bad checks and used the money to fly to California. But she was arrested in California on October 3, 2017. Anna Delvey was facing six counts of grand larceny and attempted grand larceny as well as theft of services.

Anna’s trials started in March 2019, and during the trial, the prosecutor claimed that Anna seemed more concerned with her appearance in court than the charges brought against her. It’s rumored that Anna hired a fashion consultant to help her put together the right outfits to wear to court. There was even an Instagram account created to document Anna’s looks in court.

On April 25, 2019, Anna was found guilty of three counts of grand larceny, one count of attempted grand larceny, and four counts of theft of services. She is currently being held in a New Jersey county jail awaiting deportation to Germany.

If you want to learn more about white collar criminal Anna Delvey (or Sorokin), check out the book My Friend Annawritten by Rachel Williams, the woman whom Anna conned out of $62,000 on their Morocco trip. And watch Netflix’s Inventing Annastarring Julia Garner and Anna Chlumsky.

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