A few years ago, I stumbled on a story about a fake heiress in Vanity Fair Magazine that almost knocked me off of my chair! Someone calling themselves a German Heiress had somehow swindled her way into the world of the New York elite and not only scammed individual people, but also several luxury hotels, staying months on end and not paying for it. She also tried to create her own art foundation without a single cent of capital. And, the kicker is that she almost pulled it off! Well, alright, not almost, she definitely was caught, but she made it shockingly far in her pursuits. There was media coverage of the story at the time, but the article left me wanting more; specifically, I wondered about how someone could be so duped, so manipulated and to such a great scale. Luckily, the author of the VF piece, the magazine’s very own photography editor and swindled victim, penned her own novel about her experience. I quickly found out why and how this could happen to anyone.
My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress by Rachel DeLoache Williams deep dives into her experience with Anna Delvey (a.k.a Anna Sorokin) and her world of lies and manipulation that nearly cost Rachel over $62,000 and a whole lot of personal pride. Meeting Anna through mutual friends at a New York night club, Rachel was soon treated to trips to high-end spas, thermonuclear saunas and endless glasses of wine at exclusive restaurants by her new friend. Things always seemed slightly impossible; Anna was easy going, laid back and not afraid to ask for or take what she wanted, all with an unlimited cash flow, or access. Anna embodied the persona of someone with wealth and for the most part acting was really all she needed to do. Well, that, and a banking loophole, a fake Russian billionaire father, and forged financial documents. But what’s far more interesting is that most of the time she was grifting someone, all she really had to do was ask.
Most people assumed, based on her “lifestyle”, that she was good for it and would pay them back, her father was a billionaire…Right?! Wrong. The money promised never came and Rachel ended up on the hook for a stay at Sir Richard Branson’s five-star luxury resort, La Mamounia in Marrakech (that’s over $7,000 a night). Forced by a few staff and Anna herself, Rachel covered the vacation on her personal and corporate credit cards, and then her nightmare really began.
Rachel chronicles what it’s like for someone who is a victim of this type of scam from a very personal and emotional point of view. It’s extremely tense and you can feel her frustration and stress through her writing. She tries desperately to connect with Anna, who continued traveling after Marrakech, to try and secure payment, only to be ghosted. For months she tried to plead her case with credit card companies, having her hopes crushed more than once. She eventually seeks legal help, but that is no easy pursuit and it takes a long time before anyone really listens to Rachel.
In the end, well sort of the end, Anna was arrested in Los Angeles and indicted on 6 felony charges and 2 misdemeanors. She was found guilty of all charges but 2 and sentenced to 4-12 years in prison. While she was not found guilty of the misdemeanor charge specifically against Rachel, you can sense that there is some justice for her. Even if it’s only that her story serves as a thorough warning to others, if someone asks to put a luxury vacation on your credit card after promising that it was on them, just don’t do it!
P.S. Anne Sorokin was offered a deal with Netflix to sell her story, with Shonda Rhymes producing. It’s supposed to come out in early 2022.
And if you are interested in more stories about grifters, phony’s and fakes try these:
- Diamond Doris: The True Story of the World’s most Notorious Jewel Thief by Doris Payne
- Fakes, Forgeries and Frauds by Nancy Moses
- Famous Phony’s: Legends, Fakes and Frauds who Changed History by Brianna Dumont