'Fake Heiress' of New York Anna Sorokin found guilty of $200,000 fraud

Anna Sorokin, the 'fake heiress', was found guilty of fraud - AP
Anna Sorokin, the 'fake heiress', was found guilty of fraud - AP

A Russian-German “fake heiress” has been found guilty by a jury in New York of swindling hotels, banks, restaurants and wealthy friends out of over $200,000 (£155,000).

Anna Sorokin, a 28-year-old magazine intern, managed to convince New York’s elite into lending her money and supporting her lifestyle.

Clad in Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, she moved from one boutique hotel to the next, befriending the concierges and handing out $100 tips. She treated friends to expensive meals and chartered a private plane to Omaha for the Berkshire Hathaway Conference, all on credit cards that she had secured through fraud.

Her mission was to open a private members’ club on Park Avenue, and she secured the backing of high-society architects, artists and fashion designers.

Among them was Gabriel Andres Calatrava, an architect and the son of celebrated architect Santiago Calatrava. She met him in the autumn of 2015 and told him of her plans for the club, describing it as similar to Soho House New York with a bar, a nightclub and an art exhibit. He agreed to design it.

Anna Sorokin in court in New York

“‘Fake it until you make it,’” her lawyer Todd Spodek said during opening statements last month. “Anna had to live by it.”

In reality, Sorokin had hardly any money - her father is reportedly a former truck driver from Russia who runs a heating and cooling business in Germany, and had supported her for years.

She had left home for an internship in Paris at Purple magazine, then relocated to New York in 2014.

Kaegan Mays-Williams, a prosecutor, told jurors that Sorokin “put herself in the best position to take money” from wealthy people so she could “live the fantasy of an extravagant lifestyle beyond her means.”

Even during her month-long trial Sorokin put on a show – hiring a stylist, Anastasia Walker, to dress her in different luxury labels every day, with clothes being taken to her in Riker’s Island.

Walker, whose clients include Courtney Love, dressed Sorokin in labels such as Miu Miu, and the outfit choices became something of a fascination for the media.

Her lawyer even confirmed to GQ: “Today it’s Yves Saint Laurent blouse, and Victoria Beckham pants.”

But prosecutors insisted she was a conniving criminal. Ms Mays-Williams added: “She stole from banks. She stole from hotels. She stole from friends. She tried to steal from a hedge fund.”

Mr Spodek insisted she was intending to pay it all back.

The jury largely disagreed, however, and found her guilty of the majority of counts – second-degree grand larceny, theft of services and one count of first-degree attempted grand larceny.

She was acquitted of attempted grand larceny in the first-degree, regarding a $22 million loan she tried to obtain.

The jury also acquitted her of stealing $60,000 from a friend who paid for a trip to Morocco.

Sorokin is to be sentenced on May 9 and faces up to 15 years behind bars – although she could be deported to Germany before then.

A Netflix series about her scam is already in development.