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How a fake socialite stole hundreds of thousands of dollars by pretending to be rich

Anna Delvey — not her real name — believed she could con class-conscious New Yorkers by performing wealth she couldn’t back up. And for a while, she did.

Anna Delvey went to all the right places, and knew the right people –.certainly the right people to prey on.

For a while, the twentysomething European woman with the murky backstory lived a fairytale existence in New York City, at least to the type of people who put a premium on social climbing and the performance of luxury — and plenty of those can be found in Manhattan, Anna’s primary stomping ground. Or more accurately, her hunting ground.

Anna Delvey surrounded herself with people who were taken by her apparent wealth or had enough of their own that most wouldn’t question a declined credit card here or an unpaid hotel bill there as long as she flashed a wad of cash often enough that she could keep up the illusion of being impossibly rich.

We first heard about Delvey, now 28, in a Vanity Fair story written by someone she had swindled: A friend who thought Anna was treating her to a luxury vacation in Morocco, but instead ended up having to foot the bill — which was more than her annual salary.

On Tuesday, New York Magazine’s The Cut published a deep dive into what was going on behind the scenes before the disastrous vacation, and why Anna was so eager to get out of town. In keeping with her image as a cosmopolitan, itinerant socialite, Anna had been living at a high-end boutique hotel in Soho — 11 Howard — and had been staying there for a month when she befriended Neff, a concierge at the hotel and an aspiring filmmaker about Anna’s age.

In Anna’s world, being a “friend” usually amounted to some kind of transaction, and Anna appears to have essentially bought Neff’s attention in the beginning.

Over the next few weeks, Delvey stopped by often to ask Neff’s advice, slipping her $100 each time. Neff would wax on about how Mr. Purple was totally washed and Vandal was for hipsters, while Delvey’s eyes would flit around behind her glasses. Eventually, Neff realized: Delvey already knew all the cool places to go — not only that, she knew the names of the bartenders and waiters and owners. “This is not a guest that needs my help,” it dawned on her. “This is a guest that wants my time.

… On occasion, when Delvey showed up while the concierge desk was busy, she would stand at the counter, coolly counting out bills until she got Neff’s attention. “I’d be like, ‘Anna, there’s a line of eight people.’ But she’d keep putting money down.” And even though Neff had begun to think of Anna as not just a hotel guest but a friend, a real friend, she didn’t hesitate to take it. “A little selfish of me,” she admitted later. “But … yeah.”

Neff recounted to The Cut one occasion in which she got stuck with an expensive dinner bill after Delvey’s credit card was declined at a restaurant. Incredulously, Anna reportedly gave the server there a list of handwritten credit card numbers when the physical card she presented was turned down. According to Neff’s account, the waiter dutifully plugged in the credit card numbers, shaking his head each time the charges didn’t go through.

The next day, Neff said, Delvey paid her back three times the cost of dinner, in cash.

It was grand gestures like these that allowed people in Delvey’s circle to overlook what turned out to be a habit of borrowing money from friends or asking them to put something she offered to pay for on their credit card, with a promise to pay them back — often, an empty promise. Many of Anna’s friends were rich enough that they didn’t miss even a few thousand dollars she might have owed them. ( “It was not a lot of money,” said one friend who covered plane tickets to Venice. “Like two or three thousand dollars.”)

To her particular audience, Anna was a convincing performer of wealth — the belief that she was rich is all that seemed to matter to most of the people in Anna’s ever-changing circle of friends.

But Neff was far from rich, and Delvey must have known she needed to pay her back right away. Besides, Delvey needed Neff to believe that she was good for anything she owed — because as Neff learned about a month and a half into Anna’s stay at 11 Howard, she had racked up over $30,000 in charges without ever giving the hotel a credit card to keep on file.

When Neff told Anna that management needed her to pay the bill, Anna responded by giving her a case of Dom Perignon champagne to distribute among the staff. But this time, the grand gesture backfired — the staff wouldn’t accept the gift because of Anna’s unpaid bill.

The promised wire transfer for the fees owed actually arrived, but management locked Delvey out of her room after she failed to produce a credit card for future charges. And as it turned out, Delvey got the money for the wire transfer by depositing bad checks to an account and withdrawing the money before the checks were returned.

It was just one of many instances of financial fraud that would later be uncovered — forging wire transfer receipts to secure hotel stays and even a private jet; falsifying assets in an attempt to secure a multi-million dollar loan for a real estate endeavor. This was on top of tens of thousands of dollars she owed friends — and made repeated excuses to avoid repaying — and the bill she walked out on after hosting a dinner party at a high-end restaurant.

Today, Anna Delvey — whose real last name is Sorokin — is in a jail cell at Rikers Island, facing six counts of grand larceny and attempted grand larceny. She is being held there without bail, and said in an interview with The Cut that she was frustrated she was not given the option of bailing herself out, if only to show that she has the means, she seemed to be saying. Her parents gave an interview on the condition of anonymity, admitting that they offered her some financial support, but said she never had any trust fund like she so often claimed.

Even more astonishing than Anna’s long con was how effective she was at making people believe she was someone she was not, despite all of the cracks in the facade that anyone could see if they bothered to take a second look. Anna got away with what she did for as long as she did because no one thought to trouble her web of lies.

Anna looked at the soul of New York and recognized that if you distract people with shiny objects, with large wads of cash, with the indicia of wealth, if you show them the money, they will be virtually unable to see anything else. And the thing was: It was so easy.