Even on her way to prison, even after a jury convicted her of swindling almost everyone she knew and a judge accused her of running "a big scam," Anna Sorokin was sticking by her story.
For years, Sorokin pretended to be Anna Delvey, a German heiress with a trust fund that paid for a life of glamorous ease. She lived in boutique hotels, wore designer clothes and hung out in New York City's moneyed party circles.
In reality, Sorokin, 28, was a Russian immigrant who walked out on bills, connived her way into luxury, and persuaded a bank employee to give her $100,000 she never intended to pay back, the jury decided in convicting her last month.
But in two interviews with The New York Times at the Rikers Island jail complex, where she has been held since October 2017, Sorokin was eager to explain her actions as the naive missteps of a young woman worried that she would not otherwise be taken seriously.
"The thing is, I'm not sorry," she said Friday, a day after she was sentenced to four to 12 years in prison. "I'd be lying to you and to everyone else and to myself if I said I was sorry for anything. I regret the way I went about certain things."
She said she always intended to pay back her creditors, which included two downtown hotels, a private jet company and banks. In all, the jury found, Sorokin bilked these places out of more than $200,000 and tried to dupe a hedge fund into giving her a $25 million loan.
In an interview about a week before her sentencing, Sorokin acknowledged that friends knew her as Anna Delvey. But that was just her mother's maiden name, she said. (Her lawyer, Todd Spodek, later told The Times that he did not believe that was the case, and her parents had told New York magazine they did not recognize the name.)
It was true, she said, that she had falsified some bank records, but only because she had a big dream. She had wanted to start a $40 million private club, and potential investors pushed her to open it before they would put up their own money.
Sorokin insisted she was worried that as a young woman, she was vulnerable to men who would "cheer me on" and then seize control of her vision for the club, which she called the Anna Delvey Foundation. The attention of influential men in finance and real estate validated her, she said.
"My motive was never money," she said, dressed in a khaki jail jumpsuit and Céline glasses. "I was power-hungry."
Friends may have thought she had millions of dollars at her disposal, she said, but that was a misunderstanding. She said she never told anyone she had that kind of money — they just assumed it.
Still, while Sorokin made excuses for her actions, she did not apologize for her character: "I'm not a good person."
From striver to grifter
Sorokin said she was born in Russia and grew up in Eschweiler, Germany, where her father worked as an executive at a transport company, which eventually became insolvent. At 19, she left her parents and brother for Paris in pursuit of a fashion degree.
Sorokin, who spoke only vaguely of her childhood, said she was not close to her "conservative" parents; she noted that they did not attend her trial.
In Paris, she said she took on the name Anna Delvey when shooting photographs for Purple, a fashion, art and culture magazine. There, her attention turned to art.
Earning just 400 euros a month, she remained financially dependent on her parents, who paid for her apartment, she said.
But after experiencing a breakup, she headed to New York in the late summer of 2013 for a trip to Montauk and then Fashion Week.
New York was not supposed to be a permanent move, but she found more friends than in Paris and decided to stay. For a while, she worked at Purple's New York office, she said. But eventually, she quit that, too.
This, prosecutors said, is when the striver Anna Delvey became the grifter Anna Delvey.
She moved from boutique hotel to boutique hotel, handing out $100 tips and putting off bills with promises of wire transfers that never materialized. She organized dinners at expensive restaurants, hired a private personal trainer and wore Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent.
She also began pitching her idea for her private club, which she called ADF, with exclusive memberships and rotating arts exhibits. She gained access to André Balazs, the hotelier; Roo Rogers, the British-American entrepreneur; and Aby Rosen, the real estate developer. In 2015, she befriended Gabriel Andres Calatrava, an architect and the son of Santiago Calatrava, the architect who designed the Oculus, the birdlike centerpiece of the World Trade Center transit hub.
But time was running out. She said she felt pressured to open the club in order to attract more investors. Prosecutors said her ruse was collapsing.
In late 2016, she said, she returned to Germany for a few months where she worked out the details of ADF and created four fake bank statements in Photoshop, which she said took surprisingly little time. She returned to New York in early 2017. She would use those same documents again and again in pursuit of different loans, she said.
Life behind bars
Sorokin was first arrested in July 2017 for skipping out on thousands of dollars of bills at the Beekman and W New York hotels and a lunch bill of less than $200 at a restaurant at the Le Parker Meridien hotel.
After being released, Sorokin was again arrested in October 2017 and held at Rikers.
Ahead of trial, she said, she was offered a plea deal with a sentence of three to nine years in prison, but she considered that too long and took her chances on a trial. Although she was sentenced to a longer term than she had been offered in a plea deal, she said she did not regret going to trial.
She said she has balked against authority in Rikers and has been disciplined 30 times, including a few weeks in solitary over Christmas. Because of her behavior, Sorokin said, she has been held in a maximum security section. A city corrections official confirmed the stint in solitary and said Sorokin had 13 infractions for things like fighting and disobeying orders.
She said she had achieved a measure of fame among other inmates for cheating the rich but said she did not support that characterization of herself.
Sorokin said she still has some infrequent visits from friends. But she has not seen Rachel Williams, a former Vanity Fair photo editor who testified against Sorokin at the trial. Williams accused her of stealing more than $60,000 for an opulent trip they took together to Morocco in 2017. A jury found Sorokin not guilty of the charge.
On the stand, Williams had burst into tears, calling the theft the worst experience of her life. "She should try a week here," Sorokin said dryly, of Rikers.
Sorokin has started writing a memoir about her exploits in New York. She plans to write a second book about her experience at Rikers.
In a subsequent interview, Sorokin said she was looking forward to finishing both books while in prison.
"I guess I'm fortunate enough to go to real prison, so I'll have more material," she said.
After her release, she is likely to be deported to Germany, but she said she then hoped to move to London.
She said she had already made some "smaller investments" in technology and cryptocurrency with personal money routed through an LLC.
Sorokin said she was also interested in criminal justice reform, artificial intelligence and the banking industry, adding: "Ideally, if all goes well, I'll have my own investment fund."
Spodek, her lawyer, said: "I don't know how realistic some of these business endeavors are. But I'm confident that this won't be the last time we hear from Anna, and I know that she will go on to great things."
Others are also writing Sorokin's story: Williams has deals with HBO and Simon & Schuster. And Netflix purchased the rights to the New York magazine story for an undisclosed amount. Shonda Rhimes, the creator of "Grey's Anatomy" and "Scandal," has been tapped to dramatize it.
As guards signaled the end of the visit before her sentencing, Sorokin was asked if, given the chance, she would do the same things again.
Sorokin shrugged. "Yes, probably so," she said, laughing.
Written by: Emily Palmer
Photographs by: Jefferson Siegel
© 2019 THE NEW YORK TIMES