- Jacob Shamsian/INSIDER
- Rachel Williams, who wrote about her account with Anna Delvey for Vanity Fair, testified Wednesday about being allegedly scammed by the fake heiress.
- Through tears, Williams said Delvey – whose real name is Anna Sorokin – was her friend for a year and a half, treating her to expensive restaurants and taking her and two other friends on an expensive trip to Morocco.
- At one point on the Morocco trip, Delvey asked Williams to use her credit card to pay for the hotel and other parts of the trip, saying she would reimburse her. Williams was stuck with $62,000 in bills, which she couldn’t pay.
- Williams ultimately wrote about her experience for Vanity Fair, which is being turned into a book and an HBO project with Lena Dunham. Williams stands to make more than $600,000 from the deals.
- Delvey’s alleged larceny against Williams is one of 10 counts she’s on trial for now.
Former Vanity Fair photography editor and star witness Rachel DeLoache Williams testified about her experience with Anna Delvey in court Wednesday and Thursday, telling the jury about her luxurious vacation to Morocco with the fake heiress – and the horror of realizing that she was stuck with a $62,000 bill that Delvey had promised to pay.
“I’m losing it. I’m up every night having attacks and I’m late for work,” Williams testified through sobs, explaining her feelings when Delvey offered new excuses about not paying her. “I’m getting phone calls from AMEX, which just causes more panics attacks, because I’m just telling them the same things Anna’s telling me, which is, ‘It should be just any day now, it should be any day now.'”
Delvey, whose real name is Anna Sorokin, is on the third week of her criminal trial. Delvey lied about her identity, saying she was a German heiress with a $60 million trust fund, and used that story to gain access to New York’s elite socialite scene with the apparent intention of raising money for a proposed mixed-use art gallery and restaurant space.
Prosecutors say it all amounted to a larger scheme where she lived a life “fit for a Kardashian” by stealing around $300,000 and attempted to steal millions more. She’s on trial for 10 counts of theft, larceny, and attempted theft and larceny. One of the counts names Williams as a victim, for grand larceny in the second degree.
Williams’ testimony goes to the question at the heart of the case – whether Delvey merely fell behind on her debts or engaged in criminal theft. The argument of her attorney, Todd Spodek, hinges on convincing the jury that his client’s simply fell behind on her bills and intended to pay everyone back, including Williams.
Williams eventually signed deals with HBO and a book publisher that could be worth $635,000
Williams ultimately turned the story of her experience with Delvey into an article for Vanity Fair, published in April 2018, for which the magazine paid her $1,300. Condé Nast, which owns Vanity Fair, ultimately laid her off in February 2019.
The article was released around the same time as a New York magazine article by Jessica Pressler about Delvey. Pressler’s article is being adapted into a project by Netflix, which acquired the rights to Delvey’s life story.
- Jacob Shamsian/INSIDER
Lena Dunham is adapting Williams’ version of events into a project for HBO, which paid Williams $35,000 for adaptation rights. Williams said that she could receive another $300,000 from HBO if they ultimately go through with the project, but that the exact number is still being negotiated.
“I wanted to find a home for this project. Yes, money was a factor,” Williams testified Thursday. “I worked very hard to get where I am today.”
Williams also testified that she was turning her story into a book for Simon & Schuster for $300,000, so far receiving $63,000 of a $75,000 advance.
Some of the money Williams is receiving from these deals will go to her agents – 10% for her HBO deal, 15% for her book deal – as well as other ancillary fees and taxes.
The two went on a trip to Morocco. Delvey said she’d foot the bill.
Williams befriended Delvey in February 2016 at a Manhattan nightclub called Happy Ending.
Williams’ job as a photography editor for Vanity Fair involved logistical arrangements for high-profile photo shoots, like Annie Leibovitz photographing Rihanna in Havana, Cuba, making sure “Game of Thrones” cast members could make it to shoots in Finland, and getting Lady Gaga to a shoot in New York.
She ran in social circles with people who worked in the fashion industry and met Delvey through one of them.
- Jacob Shamsian/INSIDER
The two became close, spending a lot of time eating, drinking, partying, and hanging out near 11 Howard, the SoHo hotel where Delvey lived. They went to an infrared sauna, which Williams described as a “sort of cubicle-like room” that’s “kind of like a microwave,” where they listened to music and talked. She said Delvey almost always paid the bill.
Williams said Delvey also brought her along to her personal-training sessions with Kacy Duke, whom Delvey hired and befriended because she trained the actress Dakota Johnson for “50 Shades of Grey.”
Duke was in the courtroom audience Wednesday and Thursday, telling INSIDER she was there to “show support” for Williams.
During Spodek’s cross-examination of Williams on Thursday, she said she should have suspected that Delvey may have been dishonest. She often paid with cash, and her credit card purchases were sometimes flagged as fraudulent.
“In hindsight, it’s easier to figure our the times where there were red flags,” she said Thursday. “But at the time, I did not find it strange.”
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Williams testified about a trip that she, Delvey, Delvey’s personal trainer, and the photographer Jesse Hawk took in May 2017. Assistant Manhattan District Attorney Kaegan Marie Mays-Williams, who described the trip as “fit for Kardashian” in her opening statement at the beginning of the trial, asked Williams Wednesday about how it went.
“The place she decided to go was one of the most expensive places in the world, and at that point I understood she would be paying for the trip,” Williams said. “I went because it sounded like a wonderful opportunity.”
Delvey asked Williams to book a riad – a type of Morroccan villa – at Mamounia, an enormous luxury resort in Marrakech with multiple bars, restaurants, gardens, and tennis courts for guests to enjoy. The riad alone cost $7,000 per night. They arrived on Saturday, May 13. When the four entered their personal villa through its ornate wrought-iron gate, they were greeted by a personal butler and a table topped with chilled wine, a vase of white roses, fresh fruit, and Moroccan pastries.
The group toured the area, spending thousands of dollars on restaurants, private tours of cultural sites, a visit to Richard Branson’s Kasbah Tamadot resort, and Moroccan kaftans.
Delvey told Williams she would cover it all.
Williams ultimately had more than $62,000 worth of charges on her credit cards
On the morning May 18, it was clear something was wrong.
The hotel’s billing systems didn’t accept whatever form of payment Delvey provided. Frustrated, and with two men working for the hotel looming over them, Delvey asked Williams to offer her credit card, saying she’d pay her back later. Believing she would ultimately be reimbursed, Williams gave her card to the hotel employees and then went to the villa’s pool until Delvey got dressed for the day.
“Anna appeared wearing my dress, which she did take out of my closet without asking,” Williams said. “Which was fine. It felt kind of petty.”
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#tbt Anna Delvey at Jardin Majorelle. She couldn’t just see the garden like everyone else. She had to take the pricy private tour of Yves St Laurent’s residence. Knowing now she had no money to her name, she blazed confidence and routine when spending someone else’s. #annadelvey #nymagazine #nymag #jardinmajorelle #marrakech
Delvey later asked Williams to put meals and other parts of the trip on her credit card as well. In addition to her personal American Express credit card, Williams also gave a credit card issued by Condé Nast for work purposes.
Williams left Marrakesh on May 19. In an email to Williams before the end of the trip, Delvey confirmed that it was her own responsibility to make sure that Williams was paid back.
For months afterwards, Williams asked Delvey for reimbursement for the trip. The bills tallied up to more than $62,000, far beyond what Williams could pay on her own. Williams said she was delinquent on all her bills and couldn’t pay her rent.
‘You’re starting to sound like a fraud’
Prosecutors asked Williams to read aloud her text and email exchanges with Delvey. She recounted Delvey’s excuses – which stretched on for months – about why Williams didn’t receiving wire transfers and checks to reimburse her for the trip, which Delvey said she had sent. At one point, Delvey even asked if Williams wanted to be paid by Bitcoin. She ultimately sent Williams $5,000 by PayPal, months after the trip.
“I would never had agreed to this if I knew it would take this long,” Williams told Delvey over text message. “Wires do not take weeks. Wires do not take days, even. I feel like you’re not being straight with me … Everything you say is shifty and vague. Nothing comes through. You’re starting to sound like a fraud.”
- Jacob Shamsian/INSIDER
Williams sometimes sobbed as she read through the messages. At one point Wednesday afternoon, the judge, Diane Kiesel, made the trial take a recess so that Williams could collect herself.
“I NEED TO BE REIMBURSED!!!!!!!” read one text dated July 26, 2017. “Your meetings and calls are leading to nothing!!! Help me here! I can’t make my rent!!!!!!!! I am so FREAKED out!!!!!!!!!”
Williams said she wanted to tell her side of the story
Before Williams testified on Wednesday, prosecutors asked Kiesel to prevent Spodek from asking about the terms of Williams’s deals with HBO and Simon and Schuster. The judge disagreed, and said Williams’ compensation is relevant to the case, even if she has to break any non-disclosure agreements to discuss those details. (It’s not unusual for the terms of adaptation deals – such as the one Williams has with HBO – to prohibit parties from speaking about stories until close to the project’s release date. Williams didn’t respond to a request for comment.)
“If they’re paying her 15 dollars or if they’re paying her a million and a half, I think there’s a big difference there,” Kiesel said.
- Jacob Shamsian/INSIDER
Williams said she used some of the money she received from Vanity Fair, HBO, and Simon and Schuster to pay back her former boyfriend and a family friend, who lent her around $30,000 to stay afloat at the time. She said she sought to profit from her experience with Delvey in order settle her debts.
She also wanted a way to tell her story and offer a deeper perspective than what other journalists offered.
“There are complex emotions involved,” she said Wednesday. “I just wanted to make something people can relate to.”
On Thursday, Spodek pointed out that Williams played a role in arranging Delvey’s arrest outside a hotel in California. She didn’t include the anecdote in her Vanity Fair article.
“You chose not to include to include the moment you set her up to be arrested the moment she walked out to the street,” Spodek said.
- jacob Shamsian/INSIDER
Williams said Vanity Fair didn’t give her enough space to discuss the incident. She said her story and deals with HBO and Simon and Schuster were “not about entertainment,” but “about a trauma.”
“I didn’t want the trial or the testimony to be misconstrued as something to benefit myself,” she said Thursday, her voice shaking. “This is the most traumatic thing I’ve ever been through. I wish I never met Anna. If I could go back in time and change things – I wish I could.”
Delvey’s criminal trial is scheduled to end next week.
This post has been updated with testimony from Thursday, April 18.
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