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In 2016, Rachel DeLoache Williams was a 28-year-old photo editor at Vanity Fair who had just gotten out of a long-term relationship. She was out for drinks with friends in New York City's Lower East Side when she was introduced to Anna Delvey, a German heiress. Here was a girl in the art scene, a girl who lived in a hotel a la Eloise, a girl with seemingly unlimited funds, a girl with 40,000 Instagram followers, as Williams notes in the latest episode of CNBC's "American Greed," airing Feb. 24.
Delvey seemed glamorous and generous and cool, and the two became fast friends. That is, until Delvey was exposed as a con artist. Everything – from her wealth, to her backstory, to her name – was a fraud.
So what's the true story behind Anna Delvey?
Well, when Williams met Delvey, she was describing herself as a German heiress while living at the 11 Howard hotel in Soho. She always offered to pay for meals and bottles of champagne, putting it all on her room. Delvey had big plans, too: She wanted to open the Anna Delvey Foundation, a giant art gallery space with bars, restaurants, and a members-only club. Her ideal space? The historic building at 281 Park Avenue South in Manhattan.
Things all came to a head, however, with a trip to Morocco. Here's what happened, Williams told "American Greed":
Delvey said she had to go out of the country to reset her ESTA (electronic system for travel authorization) visa and wanted to go somewhere warm instead of Germany, and she invited Williams along. She also said she wanted the process of creating the Anna Delvey Foundation totally documented, so she would chronicle the entire Morocco trip as well for practice, describing the vacation as a business trip. All expenses were on Delvey, naturally. Williams recommended a friend, videographer Jesse Hawk, and the three, along with a personal trainer pal, all planned a luxe trip to Marrakesh.
Of course, from the start, red flags popped up. Despite saying she'd handle all the expenses, Delvey didn't buy tickets. Concerned the day before the trip, Williams offered to buy all four plane tickets, each around $1,000 for a one-way trip, if Delvey would pay her back. Delvey agreed. Then, Delvey said she accidentally checked her wallet with her bags at the airport, so she couldn't pay for any drinks or dinner when they traveled to Morocco. Then, her credit cards simply wouldn't work in Morocco. Williams' credit card, instead, was swiped over and over again.
"Right away, I got the sense she was very self-important. She demanded a certain amount of attention the way she carried herself. She was really good at projecting herself the way she wanted to be perceived, that her ideas were unique or noteworthy," Hawk told "American Greed" about the trip.
Eventually, the luxury resort they were staying at — a place where their room cost $7,000 a night — demanded a credit card, as they had received no payment whatsoever for the stay.
"She kept saying the same thing. She was a broken record. 'I don’t understand, I’ve given you a routing number, I don’t know why you’re bothering me about this.' She seemed disconnected from the urgency of the situation but kept saying she was waiting for a call to come though," Williams told "American Greed."
Williams said she felt uncomfortable and pressured, so she put her card down, thinking it was just a hold until Delvey was able to pay. Instead, when back in the U.S., she discovered her card had been charged for around $62,000, the entire price of the stay. And Delvey wasn't wiring her money back.
The illusion of Delvey's wealth was being dismantled. But worse still, was the situation with the Anna Delvey Foundation.
Delvey wanted a $25 million loan from City National Bank to lease the space for the Anna Delvey Foundation. German bank documents seemingly showed she had a $60 million trust, but due to her lack of financial history, her loan was denied. Delvey was undeterred; she instead went to Fortress Investment. They were willing to give her a $30 million loan — predicated on a background check. They wanted $100,000 to do due diligence, so Delvey went back to City National and asked for $100,000 to give to Fortress Investment.
City National approved the loan in early 2017. But by May 2017, when they saw they had received no payments whatsoever from Delvey, they contacted authorities, saying they believed her initial bank documents about her trust were simply fakes.
Mark McCaffrey of the New York Police Department Financial Crimes Task Force was put on the case. He told "American Greed" that he soon learned Delvey was actually Anna Sorokin, a Russian-born woman who had spent time living in Germany. He also discovered Delvey had been doing something called "check kiting," opening multiple bank accounts and writing herself checks from one account to deposit in another, knowing the balance in the original account wouldn't be enough to cover it. She would then withdraw the money before the checks bounced. She scammed $80,000 from banks that way.
McCaffrey soon got in touch with Williams and added her account to the litany of charges prepared against Delvey. She was also facing charges for skipping out on multiple hotels bills — about $12,000 total. A warrant was put out for her arrest, but by that point, she had disappeared.
It was up to Williams to discover where Delvey had gone, and so she entered into a cautious text relationship with Delvey, attempting to establish trust. She and authorities deduced from details Delvey dropped to Williams that she had checked into rehab in California (and not just any rehab, the priciest in the U.S., Passages). Williams arranged a visit with her "friend," helping lead authorities to the runaway con artist.
"The complete disconnectedness of her from the reality of our situation, and the way her behavior affected other people was so troubling, I didn’t see any other way out," Williams told "American Greed."
Delvey would be indicted by a grand jury of six counts of felony fraud and one count of theft of services. Her defense attorney told "American Greed" he suggested she take a plea bargain as she was facing 12 years in prison. She wanted to go to trial.
"She got one more shot in the spotlight, which is what I think she wanted," McCaffrey told the show.
Her trial was a media sensation, especially when news broke she had hired a stylist for her courtroom appearances. Pictures of her myriad outfits were splashed across tabloids, and details of her odd behavior in court were leaked: one court room reporter told the show she really only saw Delvey show emotion once, on a day when she held the jury up for an hour because she didn't like her outfit.
Delvey was eventually found guilty of five of the seven charges — she was not found guilty of stealing $62,000 from Williams, a decision that "devastated" Williams, as she told the show.
Delvey, meanwhile, was sentenced to four to 12 years in prison and will be deported to Germany upon her release.
But her defense attorney, Todd Spodek, told "American Greed" that Delvey will be fine.
“I think she'll be on the 'Real Housewives of Munich' or something along those lines. ... I think we will all be watching. .... Hopefully, she'll be able to take this situation and turn it into something fabulous," he said.
Netflix is currently working on a series about Delvey with Shonda Rhimes, based on Jessica Pressler's New York Magazine article about the con artist. HBO is also working on a project about her, based off Williams' Vanity Fair article about her experience with Delvey. Williams wrote a book about her experience called "My Friend Anna," as well.
To learn more about Anna Delvey, her extravagant crimes, and how she was caught, as well as see courtroom videos and footage of the infamous Marrakesh trip, watch "American Greed" on CNBC on Monday, Feb. 24, 10/9c.
Full episodes of "American Greed" can be streamed here.
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