The trial of Anna Delvey a.k.a. Anna Sorokin, the 28-year-old fake German heiress and so-called “Soho grifter” who is accused of stealing up to $250,000 from banks and hotels in New York City, is in its first few days, and it’s already garnered as much attention as Delvey herself. On Wednesday, an image of Delvey dressed by stylist Anastasia Walker in a low-cut Miu Miu dress and Celine glasses went viral; on Friday, Delvey reportedly cried and did not want to enter the courtroom because she was not feeling well and was forced to wear rumpled prison garb in court.
On Monday, the drama continued when it was revealed that Dennis Onabajo, a banker at Fortress Investment Group, where Delvey had applied for a $22 million loan, had sent a total of 153 texts to Delvey telling her “how beautiful she is, how sexy,” according to Delvey’s lawyer Todd Spodek in a conversation with assistant district attorney Catherine McCaw and judge Diane Kiesel before the jury entered the courtroom. Onabajo was responsible for vetting Delvey’s application for a loan at Fortress.
The texts revealed that Onabajo met with Delvey at her hotel, 11 Howard Hotel, where she was living at the time. At one point, Onabajo texted Delvey, “I’m forcing myself not to kiss you because you are insanely beautiful,” and tried to visit her hotel room.
Although the text exchange between Onabajo and Delvey started on March 7th, a month after Delvey’s application for a loan had been rejected by Fortress, Spodek told Judge Diane Kiesel that he wanted to ask witness Spencer Garfield, the managing director at Fortress, whether he was aware of the texts, as they may have showed that Onabajo was “not focused on finding out her actual financial picture, but was interested in her romantically.”
When Spodek asked Garfield on cross-examination whether he was aware of the texts between Onabajo and Delvey, he denied having any knowledge of them, but said that such communication would not have been permitted at Fortress. “Fortress is very strict in terms of their policies,” he said. Garfield also denied knowing the circumstances under which Onabajo left Fortress and whether he was ever disciplined for his contact with Delvey.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Onabajo left Fortress for another position at a real estate investment firm in May 2017, a few months after he sent the texts to Delvey. While his name appears on a list of prospective witnesses, he was not called on to testify on Wednesday; Onabajo could not be reached for comment.
According to witness testimony from Garfield, the managing director at Fortress, Delvey was introduced to him by Andy Lance, a lawyer at Gibson Dunn. Delvey wanted to apply for a $22 million loan from Fortress to finance a massive social club-cum-art-exhibition-space, and was interested in leasing a 45,00-square foot space, 281 Park Avenue South, for the project.
According to Garfield, Delvey was referred to Fortress Investment Group by Andrew Lance, a lawyer at the New York City firm Gibson Dunn. In emails presented at the trial (in Comic Sans MS font, no less), Lance wrote that Delvey “needs a loan because her personal assets, which are quite substantial, are located outside the US, some of them in a trust with UBS.” As proof of her wealth, Delvey submitted fraudulent documents suggesting she was worth 60 million euros.
At first, Garfield said, Fortress was interested in the project due to Gibson Dunn’s reputation, as well as Lance’s reassurances of Delvey’s personal asset. “My impression was it was an easy transaction from the perspective of, if you have a letter of credit from the bank, it’s an easy loan,” he said. According to the emails presented at trial, in January 2017 Fortress asked Delvey for a good-faith deposit of $100,000, as well as verification from what she alleged was her bank in Switzerland as proof of her funds. After much prevarication, Delvey eventually wired Fortress the $100,000 deposit. (It was later discovered she had procured the funds from Citi National Bank after overdrafting her account.)
After attempting to get in touch with Delvey’s “bankers in Zurich” to corroborate her funds, Fortress withdrew from the deal. “We’d heard enough nonsense on the transaction,” Garfield said.
What followed were a series of frantic emails from Delvey trying to save face. “Seems like you’re upset about something,” she wrote on January 24, 2017. “[I] never pretended to be a big developer or anything similar…I did my best to cooperate and do everything as quickly as possible.”
“Everything I do now seems very logical to me,” she closed out the email. “Let me know if you think otherwise.”
Delvey later claimed that she was unable to connect anyone at Fortress with a banker because her father had been informed of her plans to build the space and “got mad and said I was wasting their money.”
In addition to Garfield’s testimony, architect Gabriel Calatrava, the son of celebrated Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, also testified. He recalled being introduced to Delvey through her boyfriend at a pub in 2015, who told him that Delvey was interested in opening a social club and exhibition space “not unlike Soho House,” a swanky members-only club in the Meatpacking District in New York City. Calatrava said Delvey’s boyfriend mentioned she had access to a trust fund of about $35 million.
According to Calatrava’s testimony, he met with Delvey several times to discuss the project, recommending she team up with his brother Micael Calatrava and his partners at real estate investment and advisory firm Calatrava Grace to proceed with developing a business model. The firm suggested that Delvey look at 281 Park Ave. South, a 45,000-square-foot Neo-Gothic building in lower Midtown Manhattan.
Calatrava provided Delvey with a rough estimate between $30 and $40 million for the space. Her reaction, as Calatrava summarizes it: “no problem.”
Delvey is being charged with grand larceny and theft of services. If convicted, she faces up to 15 years in jail and will likely be extradited to Germany either way, due to her overstaying her visa. During her trial, she is being held without bail at Rikers Island.