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The true story behind Inventing Anna, Netflix's addictive new 'fake heiress' miniseries.

The story of Anna Delvey feels like it was made for the screen.

For four years, Delvey, as she was known by Manhattan's elite, enjoyed a life full of private jets, designer clothing and grand events. As a millionaire German heiress, she was readily invited into the 'who's who' of New York City.

Except... she wasn't actually a millionaire German heiress (or any of the other stories she concocted). And Anna Delvey didn't even exist.

Watch: The trailer for Inventing Anna on Netflix. Post continues below video.


Video via Netflix.

Delvey's real name was Anna Sorokin, and she was a Russian-born fraudster. 

Netflix's new miniseries Inventing Anna tells the story of Delvey, played by Ozark's Julia Garner, her web of deception, and the investigation by New York Magazine journalist Jessica Pressler (who inspired Anna Chlumsky's character Vivian Kent) which ultimately led to her downfall.

And yes, it was real.

The life of Anna Sorokin.

Anna Sorokin was born in January 1991 in a working-class town southeast of Moscow, Russia. Her father was a truck driver, and her mother owned a convenience store before becoming a stay-at-home mum.

Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda spoke to old school friends, who described Anna as a popular girl whose favourite movie was Mean Girls.

"She liked that they were such negative characters," former friend Nastya said, in a translation of the Russian article. "At school, we were the brightest and most popular with her. And she found similarities between us and the heroines of the film."

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Anna's family emigrated to Germany in 2007 when she was 16. In 2011, she moved to London to attend art school Central Saint Martins, but quit and returned to Germany where she got a job in PR.

According to Komsomolskaya Pravda, she then moved to Paris and interned at French culture magazine Purple.

It was around this time that she started calling herself Anna Delvey.

In 2013, she experienced a breakup and travelled to New York for Fashion Week. It was not supposed to be a permanent trip, but Anna decided to stay.

At first, she simply transferred to Purple's New York office, but she eventually quit her job. This is when ambitious Anna transformed into con-artist Anna.

Anna Delvey, German heiress.

Anna lived a lifestyle far beyond her means, moving from boutique hotel to boutique hotel, hosting dinners at expensive restaurants, buying expensive designer clothing and hiring a private personal trainer, the New York Times reported.

It was, it seems, how she played the part of a moneyed young socialite to near-perfection that allowed her to weave a web of deceit – an air of nonchalance, frivolity with money, and a deep knowledge of the finer things. The people around her didn't need to know where her money came from, just that she had it.

In a celebrated piece published in The Cut in 2018, which Inventing Anna is based off, it's clear that no one had ever tried too hard to get to the bottom of her source of endless wealth. And why would they, really? Massive wealth is not usually worth much of an eyebrow raise among those circles in New York.

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The most common line was that Delvey was the daughter of a German millionaire, but she didn't have one consistent story.

"I thought she had family money," Jayma Cardoso, one of the owners of the Surf Lodge in Montauk, told The Cut

Another friend was certain Delvey's father was a diplomat to Russia. Another swore he was an oil-industry titan. "As far as I knew, her family was the Delvey family that is big in antiques in Germany," said another acquaintance, a millionaire tech CEO. 

Anna Delvey, right, at a fashion event in New York in 2014. Image: Getty. 

By this point, Anna had begun to pitch the idea of a private members' club, the Anna Delvey Foundation (ADF), to extremely wealthy people including British-American entrepreneur Roo Rogers, real estate developer Aby Rosen and hotelier André Balazs.

By 2016, she had had no luck. Investors were telling her to open the club before they'd put their money in, and no matter what she told people, Anna didn't have that kind of money.

Later that year she returned to Germany for a few months, where she worked out the details for ADF and created four fake bank statements in Photoshop, purporting to show that she had access to about €60 million (AU$95m) stored in Swiss bank accounts.

In an interview from New York's Rikers Island jail complex, Anna told the New York Times mocking them up was surprisingly quick.

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In early 2017, she once again returned to New York, fake statements in hand. She didn't know it at the time, but it was the beginning of the end.

Anna Delvey, con-artist.

Anna used the fake statements as part of loan applications for millions of dollars. First, she requested a US$22m (AU$30.6m) loan from City National Bank, who refused her.

She then applied with private equity firm Fortress Investment Group, which agreed to consider her application if she paid $100,000 to cover legal expenses. Anna agreed, and to raise this money, she returned to City National Bank and convinced an employee to grant her a temporary overdraft facility for that amount, promising to repay it quickly.

When another Fortress employee began to ask questions - like, why, for example, Anna claimed to be German while using a Russian passport? - she withdrew her loan to avoid further scrutiny. 

She used the unused portion of her overdraft - about US$55k - to finance her hotel stays and buy luxury clothes.

In the first half of 2017, she was also kicked out of hotels for not providing a credit card to charge, charted a private plane to Omaha, Nebraska, without upfront payment (or payment after the fact), and visited Marrakesh with friends and then convinced one of her companions, Vanity Fair employee Rachel DeLoache Williams, to pay the US$62k bill for their stay, promising to pay her back, when her credit card declined.

Anna Delvey/Sorokin in court in March 2019. Image: Getty. 

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In July 2017, a New York Post headline - 'Wannabe socialite busted for skipping out on pricey hotel bills' - reported on Anna skipping out on thousands of dollars of bills at the Beekman and W New York hotels, and a $200 lunch bill at the Le Parker Meridien hotel. 

While a grand jury convened to consider the charges, Anna deposited two bad cheques into a new bank account, netting her the thousands of dollars needed to fund a trip to California.

It was here, at Passages 'luxury addiction treatment centre' in Malibu, that she was arrested.

Anna was offered a plea deal with a sentence of three to nine years in prison, but she considered that too long and took her changes on a trial, which took place in March 2019.

Image: Netflix. 

Throughout the trial, Anna became just as notorious for her elaborate courtroom fashion as for her crimes, with her defence attorney Todd Spodek saying "it is imperative that Anna dress appropriately for the trial".

On April 2019, after two days of deliberations, a jury found Anna guilty of eight charges, including grand larceny in the second degree, attempted grand larceny, and theft of services. 

She was sentenced to four to 12 years in prison, fined US$24,000 and ordered to pay restitution of about US$199k.

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Anna was released on parole in February 2021. 

Anna Delvey, Netflix star.

Following The Cut's investigation, Netflix and Shonda Rhimes acquired the rights to the publication's viral profile of Anna.

The New York Attorney General's office sued Anna in 2019, demanding the Netflix money be used to repay her debts. As a result, a US$140k advance paid to her was frozen and distributed to City National Bank and Citibank.

Julia Garner was Anna in Netflix's Inventing Anna. Image: Netflix. 

Netflix agreed future payments would be paid to an account managed by her lawyer.

Julia Garner plays her in the series, Inventing Anna, released on Netflix on February 11.

Rachel, the former friend whom Anna scammed out of more than $60k, wrote about her unease with the series for Air Mail.

"Because of Netflix, Anna emerged from behind bars financially net positive, with legions of followers and a level of notoriety from which she’ll presumably continue to profit," she said.

Where is Anna Sorokin (a.k.a Anna Delvey) now?

Six weeks after her release from jail, Anna was arrested again for overstaying her visa and is currently living in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centre.

In a story for Business Insider, written from inside the ICE facility, Anna said she didn't plan on watching the Netflix series - not that she has access to it.

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"Even if I were to pull some strings and make it happen, nothing about seeing a fictionalised version of myself in this criminal-insane-asylum setting sounds appealing to me," she said.

"For a long while, I was hoping that by the time Inventing Anna came out, I would've moved on with my life. I imagined for the show to be a conclusion of sorts summing up and closing of a long chapter that had come to an end.

"Nearly four years in the making and hours of phone conversations and visits later, the show is based on my story and told from a journalist's perspective. And while I'm curious to see how they interpreted all the research and materials provided, I can't help but feel like an afterthought, the somber irony of being confined to a cell at yet another horrid correctional facility lost between the lines, the history repeating itself.

"Admittedly, I, the ultimate unreliable narrator, have made some questionable choices that I wouldn't necessarily repeat today."

Feature image: Netflix/Getty.

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