UPDATE: On Thursday, Anna Delvey, the 28-year-old woman who pretended to be a German heiress and allegedly swindled hotels and restaurants out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, was found guilty of most of the charges against her, including theft of services, second-degree grand larceny, and one count of first-degree attempted larceny.
Delvey (born Anna Sorokin) was accused of stealing up to $250,000 from banks and hotels in New York City, as well as submitting fraudulent documents to banks and investment banking firms such as Citi National Bank and Fortress Investment Group in an effort to obtain multi-million dollar loans to finance a social club and arts exhibition space. Delvey allegedly pretended to be an uber-wealthy German heiress with a trust fund of $35 million in order to gain access to elite New York City institutions.
Although Delvey was found guilty of eight of the 10 of the charges against her, she was not found guilty of attempted grand larceny in the first-degree, as part of a $22 million loan she tried to get under false pretenses from Fortress Investment Group. She faces up to 15 years in prison.
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On Tuesday, clad in a short white lace dress and with her hair in a high ponytail, Delvey sat quietly and listened to the closing statements made by defense attorney Todd Spodek, who opened by referencing Frank Sinatra, as he did during his opening statements. In his statement, Spodek essentially depicted Delvey as a successful, self-made entrepreneur in the age of social media. “Sinatra made a brand new start of it in New York, as did Ms. Sorokin,” he said. “They both created their own opportunities.”
He then recounted Delvey’s attempts to obtain a $22 million loan from Fortress Investment Group, among other financial institutions, were motivated solely by her desire to fund the development of an arts exhibition space, which she planned to build at 281 Park Avenue South in lower midtown Manhattan. “Ms. Sorokin was ambitious, persistent, and determined to make her business a reality,” Spodek said. He cited the “bold-faced names” attached to the project at various points, such as architect Gabriel Calatrava and hotelier Andre Balazs, as evidence that Delvey had every intention to fulfill her dreams of the project: “If all of these bold faced names would come to the site and work with the team, would it be unreasonable for her to think it was a reality? Would it be unreasonable for her to think they would do business with her?,” Spodek said.
By posing as a German heiress, Spodek argued, Delvey was able to gain access to upper-crust circles that she wouldn’t otherwise have been able to penetrate. He argued that she didn’t swindle the wealthy people she is alleged to have drawn into her web, so much as her actions were “enabled by a system that favors people with money and the appearance of money.” Companies like Blade, an air travel service which accused Delvey of not paying them for a $35,000 flight, “made exceptions” for Delvey at every turn due to her upper-crust pedigree.
In perhaps the most striking moment of his closing statement, Spodek attempted to paint Rachel DeLoache Williams, the former Vanity Fair photo editor who penned an essay about her relationship with Delvey, as a greedy opportunist. DeLoache Williams tearfully testified last week about how Delvey bilked her out of more than $60,000 to pay for a trip to Morocco, which Delvey had promised to fund. “Ms. Sorokin knew the right people at the right places, and Ms. Williams wanted to be part of Ms. Sorokin’s life…it was not long before Ms. Williams was living la vida loca on Ms. Sorokin’s dime,” he told jurors.
Spodek referred to DeLoache Williams’ emotional testimony as a “performance” worthy of an “Oscar,” arguing that the fact that she struck a deal with Simon and Schuster to write a book about her relationship with Delvey — and the fact that she sold the rights to her Vanity Fair essay to HBO for adaptation — was evidence that she took advantage of every opportunity to exploit their friendship. “She wanted to be a writer, and lo and behold, what happens? Her first piece is published for Vanity Fair,” Spodek said, noting that she “took advantage of every opportunity before her.”
Throughout the trial, Spodek’s defense of Delvey essentially was predicated on the fact that because Delvey did not come close to obtaining loans from Citi National Bank and Fortress Investment Group, that she could not be guilty of attempted larceny. “The law of attempt is that Anna’s actions have to become dangerously close to completing the crime,” he previously told Rolling Stone. “My position is that irrespective of her actions, she never came close to committing the crime because every step of the way, the problems were increasing.”
During closing statements, however, prosecutor Catherine McCaw refuted this line of defense, pointing to the fraudulent documents Delvey submitted to obtain the loan as evidence that she “took numerous steps toward the committing crime.”
In an exhaustive PowerPoint presentation, McCaw walked the jury through the evidence attesting to the paper trail Delvey left behind in an effort to obtain loans, such as fraudulent passports, driver’s license, bank statements, and account transactions. McCaw also pointed to emails a frantic Delvey sent trying to expedite the loan application process: “If she did not believe she would be successful at obtaining this loan, why would she try, over and over and over again?,” she said.
McCaw also walked the jury through Google searches Delvey had done in an effort to construct fake email addresses for her “accountants,” who were often included on email threads with bank employees. In order to create email addresses for “Bettina Wagner,” Delvey’s supposed accountant, Delvey did Google searches for such terms as “send untraceable fake emails” and “non-existent email that is not going to bounce back.” Delvey also allegedly used an app called Hushed to place calls from a fake phone number on behalf of her “accountant” to Fortress Investment Group. “The defendant thought — she believed — these steps would take her over the line so she would be able to get this loan, and this would allow her to accomplish this crime,” McCaw said.
McCaw also referred to Delvey’s purported building project, the Anna Delvey Foundation, as “a fiction from start to finish,” and that she never intended to use any of the money from bank loans to fund the development of the space. “By the time she approached Citi National for this loan, she knew this building wasn’t a reality,” McCaw argued, referring to the fact that the intended space on Park Avenue South had already found another lessee. McCaw argued that she intended to use the funds from bank loans for personal use all along, referring to the fact that she spent more than $650 on minibar items at the W Hotel as evidence of her lavish personal spending. “That’s an awful lot of M&Ms,” she said, to soft laughter from the jury.
Throughout the prosecution’s closing statements, Delvey sat largely sphinx-like, at times leaning over to consult with her attorney. On occasion, she could be heard suppressing chuckles at some of the evidence presented by the prosecution.
There is “no dispute whatsoever” Delvey attained money and services from her victims under false pretenses, McCaw said. “There is no dispute whatsoever that she told lie after lie after lie while interacting [with her victims,” she argued.
Although Spodek attempted to paint Delvey’s deceptions as “white lies,” McCaw stated that they were much more severe than that. “A white lie is telling your girlfriend her butt does not look big in those jeans,” McCaw said, again to laughter from the jury.
“Making up fake bank documents, making up fake accounts…those are not white lies.”
Delvey will be sentenced on May 9.
Correction Wed., Apr. 24, 10:41 a.m.: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of lead prosecutor Catherine McCaw.