US jury weighs fate of woman who passed herself off as heiress

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Anna Sorokin (C), who passed herself off as an heiress, is charged with 10 counts of fraud and the theft of $275,000

Anna Sorokin (C), who passed herself off as an heiress, is charged with 10 counts of fraud and the theft of $275,000 (AFP Photo/TIMOTHY A. CLARY)

New York (AFP) - A jury in New York on Tuesday began deliberating the fate of a German-Russian woman charged with 10 counts of fraud and theft of $275,000 during the time she spent passing herself off as an heiress.

Anna Sorokin, 28, is accused of inventing a new identity upon her 2016 arrival to the US, presenting herself as an heiress when she was in fact the daughter of a Russian truck-driver who moved to Germany at age 16.

Sorokin, who went by the name Anna Delvey during the time she allegedly spent arranging the fraud scheme, was held without bail throughout her trial. In court, former friends took the stand to lament having ever gotten pulled into her orbit, according to media reports.

But Sorokin's attorney Todd Spodek compared her to Frank Sinatra, saying: "In a city that favors money and the appearance of money... they both created their own opportunities."

"She didn't do anything to separate New Yorkers from their money, they gave it to her," Spodek said.

Through clever lies and incredible self-confidence, Sorokin received tens of thousands of dollars in loans from several banks, traveled free on private planes and spent months in luxury Manhattan hotels without paying the bill, according to prosecutors.

- 'Buying time' -

As she became more enmeshed with the New York City elite, Sorokin focused on an ambitious project to open an upscale nightclub that doubled as an art gallery. She tried to borrow $22 million in order to launch it after convincing a powerful promoter to provide a venue on the prestigious Park Avenue.

"She was creating a business that she believed would work and she was buying time," her attorney argued.

But prosecutor Catherine McCaw called on the jury to convict Sorokin, saying that "the evidence is overwhelming."

"The reality is that the defendant told lie after lie to victim after victim, she submitted phony document after phony document, phony ID card after phony ID card," said McCaw.

"These are not white lies... the defendant had a criminal intent in this case."

Sorokin has spent a year and a half at New York's famous Riker's Island prison and could spend up to 15 years in prison.

If acquitted, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement have told US media Sorokin will be deported back to Germany for overstaying her visa.