Tidings and salutations, bibliophages. Thank you for joining me on True Crime By The Book where every other Tuesday we meet up to talk real crime one page at a time. I’m your host, Tasha Pierce. If you’d like to help the podcast, please head over to iTunes/Apple Podcasts, anywhere and drop a review. I would certainly appreciate it. There’s more than one type of crime. Today, my main source of reference was “My Friend Anna- The True Story of a Fake Heiress” by Rachel DeLoache Williams. I listened to the audiobook, which was narrated by Williams. Let’s get that Audible author page bio for Ms. Williams, shall we?
Rachel DeLoache Williams was born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee, and is a graduate of Kenyon College. In 2010, she moved to New York City and landed her dream job in the photo department of Vanity Fair, where she helped produce photo shoots, including those for the annual Hollywood and New Establishment issues, and worked with the magazine’s leading photographers and iconic subjects. My Friend Anna is her first book.
And what a first book it is. I think it was a good idea for Williams to deliver her story, in her voice. But, Rachel, I got questions, girl! Before we get to the reasons I find this story to be absolutely batshit, let’s see what Goodreads tells us about the book.
Sex and the City meets Catch Me if You Can in the astonishing true story of Anna Delvey, a young con artist posing as a German heiress in New York City—as told by the former Vanity Fair photo editor who got seduced by her friendship and then scammed out of more than $62,000.
So, what problems can I have with this tale of a young woman who scammed New York? Well, first and foremost, how does this thing happen? I mean seriously- in the age of Google and social media and the need for “receipts” to prove ANYTHING- how does a person pose as an heiress for over a year and not be called to the carpet? This girl had homemade bank documents. HOMEMADE! And ,well, I guess the first thing she had going for her was being white. I know it’s a little early in the story for me to be pulling the race card, but come on. If I suddenly showed up in Atlanta saying I was an heir to the Wakandan throne, don’t you think at least ONE person would have dropped my name into Google? I think that person would have to have at least ten years of receipts before I was able to get credit at IHOP. But, somehow, Anna was able to secure a $100,000 loan on the basis that she had money in another country. I know that in New York, one has to create their own opportunities, but this borders on ridiculous! She had this big dream of getting $22million to start the Anna Delvey Foundation. She actually had the plans for this foundation being carried out in the most skeptical city in the US. She scammed a bank out of 100k with the limited life experience of a 28 year old. The banks would be requesting my mother’s maiden name for a thousand bucks. This girl got 100 times that with a fake identity. Right- her real name is Anna Sorokin. She earned 400 euros a month working/interning at Purple Magazine. Her mom was a homemaker and her dad worked as a trucker. She was born in Russia and moved to Germany as a teen. She wound up in NY after visiting and falling in lust with the place. But, she looked the part, she dressed the part, but most of all, she ACTED entitled. That’s the second thing she really had going for her. She acted as if she were better- more PRIVILEGED- than everyone around her, so that really sold the act. I know I’m pushing this, but that’s what Rachel hammered home in this book. She was the object of Anna’s generosity and friendship, but she noted that Anna was a pretty shitty human being. She was selfish and snobbish but those in her circle made excuses for her shitty behavior. She tossed around money like it was Kleenex because she didn’t have to EARN it. And as long as she was footing the bill, everyone ignored her trash behavior. And Rachel was the closest thing to a friend that Anna had, so as long as she had the money she scammed from the bank, she pampered Rachel with some of the finer things. Rachel wasn’t a starving college student- she made a decent living for herself at Vanity Fair. She didn’t NEED Anna’s money but she did benefit from the friendship. Anna was playing a role and Rachel was not only a prop but also was in the dark, but parts of me wonder if she wanted to be in the dark. I guess I’m the type of person who drops names of characters from movies, subjects of podcasts, guys I’ve dated into search engines all the time. I just want to know. So, if someone presented themselves as an heiress to me I picture myself excusing myself from the table and googling them in the bathroom. I can’t help it. For whatever reason, NOBODY thought to use the supercomputer in their pocket to do this, so Anna went on fooling the masses. She was staying at the best hotels, eating at the top restaurants, when I say she popped bottles in some of the finest establishments and rubbed shoulders with some powerful people I really mean it. She would drop a name or be seen in the presence of an “old money” type and their privilege would just transfer over to her. That’s not some shit I can dream of getting away with. I could show up to a basketball court with Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and still have to prove that I can play. But not Anna. Anna was taking helicopters instead of Ubers and renting private jets. All while playing a shell game with $100,000.
So, when you get this close to a scammer eventually you become the scammed. I don’t make the rules, I just live by them. Forgive me if I sound like I don’t give a fuck- I really think Anna is a horrible person to do this to her friend. Yep, Rachel was the closest thing to Anna and a scammer gonna scam. So, Anna woke up one day and decided she needed to film a documentary in Morocco so she got a clique together and invited them, including Rachel, to roll with her-it was her treat. After some planning, it was time to purchase the tickets. Unfortunately, there was a problem with Anna’s credit card. That would have been the end of the trip. Like, you said your treat. I can’t afford this shit so I guess we’ll be hanging out in NY instead of Morocco. But, Anna asked Rachel to put the flights on her card- and she did. Of course, Anna promised to pay her back as soon as she got this credit card situation straight with her bank. Off they go to Morocco. They check-in and start the vacation shenanigans but Anna starts her anti-social behavior shit and kind of bullies Rachel into getting in the pool. Rachel got an attitude about that. This was the first time Anna singled her out with her privilege act and being on the receiving end of the bullshit wasn’t fun. Later in the trip, they were thoroughly embarrassed when the group went on a tour and Anna’s card was declined. Rachel had to save the day again. Finally, they return to the hotel where management was pressing them for payment. Rachel once again supplied her card. They were not supposed to charge her credit card, it was only for a temporary hold. Okay, once the vacation was over and regular life was resumed, Rachel got her credit card statement and saw that $62, 000 had been charged to her account. She created an invoice for the costs and sent it to Anna. Anna thanked her and said her bank would be wiring the money. Except it didn’t. And so started the back and forth between Anna and Rachel for months. It’ll be here tomorrow. Next week. Next week. Tomorrow. For literal months. Every day, Rachel is getting sicker and sicker because her credit score is plummeting and Anna is offering excuse after bullshit excuse. The thing about scams is at some point the jig is up. The piper is looking to get paid- and Anna had enough pipers to form an orchestra.
And here is where I am further confused by the law as it pertains to financial crimes like this. Let’s say I’ve got a friend named Anna. Anna asks me to give her a ride to the bank. Without my knowledge, she robs the bank. She gets back in the car and I start driving. We’re pulled over, the police find the money from the heist on Anna. Anna is going to jail- but guess who else is going? That’s right- I’m going to jail, too. Hopefully, I get a great attorney who can keep me out of PRISON, but I’m definitely getting locked up. So, in the case of Rachel vs. Anna, why doesn’t this apply? The group of friends benefited from Anna’s crimes whether they knew she was a criminal or not. Why are they not ALL on the hook for the bill? I know a person who was being scammed by a guy she met online. She became the middleman in a huge scheme that involved moving money all over the world and guess where she wound up? PRISON, that’s where- and she was being SCAMMED. I argue that anything Anna gave them was fruit of the poisonous tree and everyone who personally benefited from that fruit is responsible. That is not how the law sees it though, so Anna was going to be prosecuted for her crimes. And zero fucks were given by Anna.
She really gave no fucks. At the end of it all, she was convicted on several counts-grand larceny, second-degree larceny, theft of services– but NOT for Rachel’s ridiculous credit card bill. Anna is serving 4-12 years after a trial that was more like a damn fashion show. There was even an Instagram page devoted to her trial looks. She hasn’t been a model prisoner, either. This child got into fights and just like she did her whole stay in NY, she marches to the beat of her own drummer. Of course, when you do this in Rikers they put you in solitary confinement. I guess that will give Anna time to work on the two books she says she is writing- one about her scams and the other about her prison experience. She will very likely be deported once her sentence is up, but we will hear more from Anna in her next chapter. Netflix currently has the rights to her story and a series based upon her escapades is being created by none other than Shonda Rimes- you’ll know her from Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. She’s kind of a big deal. And I know that I left you hanging about Rachel and her financial difficulties. The good news is, that after MUCH badgering of the credit card company, her debt was forgiven. Sounds about white.
If you can’t tell, I’m astonished by this story. Just all of it. I’m at an absolute loss of words because none of this seems real. But it is. Read the book “My Friend Anna” and let me know if I’m being an asshole about all this. I’ll leave a link to the book in the show notes. This is really beyond my level of experience in the world, possibly because I’m Black but mostly because I’m poor. Speaking of poor, if you’d like to help the show, I now have a Patreon at patreon.com/TcbyTB. You can also find a link in the show notes to my Red Circle creator page where you can leave one time donations. I’m TCbyTB on all the things now, so follow me on social media. You can send me a good old fashioned email at TCbyTB@gmail.com. Please- rate and review the podcast, share it with a friend. I love you all so much for listening and want to share the love with others! I’m coming back next week with my alter-ego segment which I’ve renamed “More Than A Movie”. I want to discuss “Growing Up Buttafuco” which is a recent episode of 20/20. If you’d like to watch, the episode is available on Hulu. Of course, it deals with the aftermath of the case of the Long Island Lolita. If you don’t know what that is, you have homework. Meet me back here for More Than a Movie on TCbyTB. With that, Thank you for listening! Later Bookworms!