- Jacob Shamsian/INSIDER
- The trial for Anna Delvey – the woman who allegedly pretended to be a German heiress as part of a scam, and whose real name is Anna Sorokin – began on Wednesday.
- Prosecutors say she scammed people, hotels, and financial institutions so she could live a life of luxury.
- Part of it involved staying at a high-end villa in Morocco “fit for a Kardashian” with a private pool and butler, prosecutors said.
- Delvey’s defense attorney said that she didn’t commit any crimes and was just trying to fake it until she made enough money to pay everyone back.
- One banker sent flirty text messages calling her “insanely beautiful” and asking to come up to her room instead of doing due-diligence, her attorney said.
The trial of alleged socialite scammer Anna Delvey began on Wednesday morning in New York City. In opening statements, prosecutors painted a picture of Delvey as a chronic and sophisticated financial swindler who posed as a German heiress to live a life of luxury she otherwise couldn’t afford.
The prosecution focused on a lavish May 2017 trip to Morocco with Vanity Fair photography editor Rachel Williams, who wrote about her experience for the magazine. The pair visited the North African country with a friend of Williams and Delvey’s personal trainer.
Assistant District Attorney Kaegan Marie Mays-Williams told jurors that Delvey, presenting herself as an influencer, booked a room at La Mamounia, a luxury resort in the regional capital of Marrakech. They stayed at a riad, a traditional Moroccan villa operated by the hotel, for approximately $6,000 per night.
“The riad is one of the four private accommodations located upon the hotel’s grounds,” Mays-Williams said during the trial, attended by INSIDER. “The riad has a private pool, its own butler, and all the extravagance fit for a Kardashian.”
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In her Vanity Fair article, Rachel Williams said the group indulged in every amenity the hotel had to offer. They took private tennis lessons and ate breakfast poolside; during breaks, a butler delivered fresh watermelon and bottles of rosé.
“We roamed the gardens, relaxed in the hammam, swam in our villa’s private pool, took a tour of the wine cellar, and ate dinner to the intoxicating rhythms of live Moroccan music, before capping our night with cocktails in the jazzy Churchill bar,” Williams wrote.
When Delvey’s credit card didn’t go through, leaving her unable to pay the hotel, she convinced Williams to cover the trip’s entire $70,000 bill herself. Williams said she expected Delvey, whose real name is Anna Sorokin, to pay her back because Delvey had convinced her she was a wealthy German heiress. Williams is expected to testify about her experience later in the trial.
Delvey is charged with 10 counts of committing or attempting to commit theft or grand larceny and pleaded innocent of all the charges. She arrived in court in a sleeveless black dress, black tights, black flats, and a beige mockneck sweater held in her handcuffed hands. She wore the sweater once she was seated by court officers.
Delvey’s attorney says she was trying to fake it until she made it
In court Wednesday, Todd Spodek, Delvey’s attorney, described her as a “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed” 25-year-old with ambitious plans to make it big in New York City. Peppering his statement with variations of the famous aphorism “fake it ’til you make it,” he argued Delvey’s bills amounted to unpaid debts – not crimes like larceny or theft.
“It may not be ethical,” Spodek said. “But it was not a crime. The evidence will show that she tried to pay [Williams] back, and that was her intention. Overdrafting your account is not a crime.”
- Jacob Shamsian/INSIDER
Spodek cast Williams as an opportunist with a financial incentive to portray herself as a victim. The actor and director Lena Dunham is adapting Williams’ Vanity Fair article for HBO – a project not to be confused with producer Shonda Rhimes’ adaptation of a New York magazine story about Delvey for Netflix.
Delvey paid back $5,000 to Williams and planned to pay her back the rest, Spodek said.
“Rachel is selling her story to the highest bidder,” Spodek said of the Vanity Fair writer. “Anna pays her way when she can. And she believed it would all work out. Her life experiences told her that it would.”
- Jacob Shamsian/INSIDER
In her Vanity Fair article, Williams said that Delvey only paid her back $5,000 one month after the trip. Delvey gave her numerous delays and excuses when she confronted her about repaying the full amount.
“Her texts became increasingly Kafka-esque: assurances of incoming reimbursements through varying methods of payment that never materialized,” Williams wrote. “She spun a web of promises that grew increasingly self-referential and complex. I thought there was an issue with her trust-fund disbursement, and I resented her unwillingness to be straight with me.”
Williams did not immediately respond to INSIDER’s request for comment.
The banks failed at due diligence, her lawyer said
Most of the criminal counts for larceny are based on Delvey’s interactions with financial institutions, including Citibank and Fortress Investment Group. Spodek argued that it was their own fault they lost money with Delvey, since they failed at their own due diligence process.
One banker at Fortress Investment Group, Spodek said, flirted with Delvey instead of doing his job. Spodek cited from some of the messages the banker allegedly sent her. In one of them, the banker allegedly said he was “forcing myself not to kiss you because you look insanely beautiful.”
“The messages are interesting to say the least,” Spodek said before quoting another. “‘I have to say, it’s been a lot of fun hanging out with you, and you are an extremely beautiful person inside and out.’ Records will show that that’s not part of the due diligence of that bank.”
- Jacob Shamsian/INSIDER
“And last but not least, ‘Let me come up to your room and say goodbye,'” Spodek continued, citing another text message. “The evidence will show that Anna did not invite him to her room for a ‘proper goodbye,’ and this was not part of the due diligence process.”
Throughout the day, the jury took breaks because one of the jurors kept falling asleep. State Supreme Court Judge Diane Kiesel grilled the juror about his sleeping habits as Delvey stifled a laugh. Kiesel dismissed the jury early and instructed them all to rest.
“Have a nice dinner,” she said. “Get a good night’s sleep.”
Delvey is being held at the prison on Rikers Island for the duration of the trial, which is scheduled to conclude near the end of April. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement previously told INSIDER it plans to deport her whether she’s found innocent or guilty because she overstayed her visa.
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