Oh, what a tangled web we weave … when first we practice to deceive.
Walter Scott’s right-on-target rhyme has been a perfect quote for chicanery through the ages, including the present day.
This year’s example involves a New York woman named Anna Sorokin who bilked hotels, restaurants, a private jet operator and banks out of more than $200,000.
On Thursday, the elegant crime series came to an abrupt halt when the 28-year-old Russian immigrant, from a middle-class family, was convicted of most of the charges against her. She now faces 15 years in prison on the second-degree grand larceny charge.
Prosecutors in Manhattan said this spectacular scam involved an aggregate swindle of $275,000 from the rich and the unsuspecting, including friends and financial institutions, to pay for the luxurious lifestyle she so desperately desired.
She elbowed her way into the city’s bustling social scene and tried to raise money to open a members-only echelon of Manhattan society Arts Club on Park Avenue South.
She told her friends and those wanting to do business with her that she was a wealthy German heiress with a taste for the high life.
For years, she played the role, and looked it, too. She wore the latest designer clothes — Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent — and moved from one boutique hotel to the next. She doled out $100 tips, treated friends to expensive meals and chartered a private plane to Omaha for the Berkshire Hathaway Conference.
The jury members found her not guilty on one of the most serious charges, attempted grand larceny in the first-degree regarding a $22 million loan she tried to obtain. They also acquitted her of stealing $60,000 from a friend who paid for a trip to Morocco.
The case against Sorokin, as presented during a month-long trial in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, is an unusual New York City tale of a young grifter who went to extraordinary lengths to persuade people that she was an heiress named Anna Delvey.
“Fake it until you make it,” her lawyer Todd Spodek said during opening statements last month. “Anna had to live by it.”
Unethical? Yes, Spodek said. Unorthodox? Sure. A crime? No, he argued, because Sorokin intended to pay everyone back. In a world fascinated with “glamour and glitz,” she had only allowed people to believe what they wanted about her, he said.
And here’s the high-life tag line:
Even with her conviction, her foiled pursuit of a jet-set lifestyle netted her a glittering prize: an upcoming series on Netflix produced by Shonda Rhimes, the creator of the popular television show, “Grey’s Anatomy” and other TV successes.