Anna Sorokin proves were all soft touches for glamour scammers | Rebecca Nicholson
Theres a reason why the story of the sham heiress is fascinating in our phoney world any one of us could be conned
On Thursday, in a New York courtroom, Anna Sorokin was convicted of a litany of charges: four counts of theft of services, three of grand larceny and one of attempted grand larceny. The story of her brief, bright career as a scammer, when she floated around the city claiming to be an heiress called Anna Delvey, on a cycle of borrowing and defaulting, has proved so gripping that it is already being turned into competing projects. A New York magazine report from 2018 was optioned for Netflix; a Vanity Fair story, written by the photojournalist who had been swindled by Sorokin (and who testified against her), is being adapted for HBO by Lena Dunham.
Sorokins convictions, for which she faces a prison sentence and deportation to Germany, make her the latest in a line of high-level fakers elevated to celebrity status by our fascination. Its no wonder that Netflix and HBO are involved in turning the saga into entertainment: from the Fyre festival to Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraced CEO of Theranos (not, in a week of Avengers overload, to be confused with Thanos), tales of people promising something they could never, or never intended to, deliver are everywhere.
It is surely just a matter of time before Netflix creates a glamour scammers category, on a par with understated TV dramas featuring a strong female lead or, as I found when scrolling last week, sparking joy, which perhaps reveals more about my algorithms than I should be comfortable with.
I used to think that the appeal of such stories was down to the unedifying pleasure of schadenfreude and the firm belief that we, the people watching, would never be conned like that. The Fyre festival fiasco thrived on this sentiment: people saw others paying for the pursuit of impossible glamour, only to find that it was actually impossible.
Now I think the appeal might lie somewhere else. We are all in a position where being tricked on some level is not unusual and seeing these grand scams unfold only highlights how much of the world is run on persuasion and image of no substance. Even Sorokins legal strategy emphasised the fakery around us. Everyones life was perfectly curated for social media. People were fake. People were phoney. And money was made on hype alone, her lawyer told the jury.
Its little comfort to those damaged by Sorokins actions. But they expose a vulnerability in all of us and that might be what makes such stories so desperately, hopelessly thrilling.