NEW YORK – It’s a weekday afternoon and Anna Sorokin is on house arrest in a New York apartment building that has been condemned as imminently perilous to life. So she’s attempting to capture outside attention and relieving her boredom in the most quotidian way: starting a podcast.
“So many people became famous for bad things and were able to kind of segue it into something different," she recently told The Associated Press in her East Village apartment.
“The main theme of my podcast is productive rule-breaking,” she said of “The Anna Delvey Show.”
For now, she wants to reimagine her public image to shake her reputation of being a con artist and a scammer.
“I’m on 24/7 house arrest. I’m only allowed to leave for my parole check-ins, my ICE check-ins and for medical emergencies,” she said. Behind her is a life-size cutout of her likeness — created by artist Kenny Schachter — which, like Sorokin herself, is wearing an ankle monitoring device.
Going by the name Anna Delvey, she posed as a German heiress and lied about having a $67 million trust fund in order to apply for loans, run up debts and secure a historic building for a private arts club. She falsely claimed to be the daughter of a diplomat or an oil baron. Arrested in late 2017, she was convicted in 2019 on multiple counts of larceny and theft for bilking banks, hotels and wealthy New Yorkers out of $275,000.
She was sentenced to four to 12 years in prison. After serving three years in prison though — about half of which was at Rikers Island jail complex — Sorokin, a German citizen, was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Later, she was released after posting a $10,000 bond in the fall to home confinement, pending a deportation hearing.
Now she’s taking advantage of her time at home by launching a weekly podcast series that she hopes will tell her side of the story, featuring various expert and celebrity guests. Sorokin's conversations with Julia Fox, “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli and Ottessa Moshfegh will be on upcoming episodes, according to Reunion Audio, the podcast company, who have also said she is interviewing Emily Ratajkowski though her team has not confirmed that.
Sorokin’s fraud case became the basis for the Emmy-nominated Netflix series “Inventing Anna," based on a New York magazine story. Sorokin, played by three-time Emmy winner Julia Garner, said she was a consultant on the show, but didn't have “any control” over the final product.
“For me to say I’m rehabilitated would be to admit something was wrong with me to begin with. Like, I was just young. I made some mistakes,” she said. “I’m trying to learn from them. My case, my criminal case is on direct appeal."
“Inventing Anna” was inspired by real-life events, but every episode included a disclaimer that the story was true except for the parts that were made up.
“I know some of the stuff like definitely did not happen," Sorokin said. "But it’s not really up to me to sit here and go over the series piece-by-piece, because it’s literally a Shonda Rhimes interpretation.”
While Sorokin was jailed, her fanbase grew — even organizing a “Free Anna Delvey” art show that included some of her drawings, as well as works by other artists. Since then, she has attempted to sell pencil drawings for up to $25,000.
The podcast gives her the opportunity to take back some control over the narrative, and it’s something she’s thought about doing for some time.
“I wanted to start recording in jail, actually over the jail phone because, you know, there are some rappers who record whole albums while being incarcerated. I was like, ‘Why not record a podcast?’” Sorokin said.
She was never able to do it, because it was “logistically difficult” to record episodes, according to the podcast company.
As far as her time behind bars, Sorokin called prison a “transformative experience,” saying that she’s no longer the person who was arrested in 2017.
“It’s been five years, a bit more than five years since I got arrested. So, I just like — I changed. I learned so much,” she said. Dressed in a white blouse, her signature black-ribbon tie and dark slacks, her ankle bracelet is clearly visible.
She lifts her pants leg to show it off and even explains how it works.
“Sometimes you see the banks all operate the biggest fraud on a huge scale, but like if you bounce, I don’t know, a $500 check, then (it’s) fraud,” Sorokin said.
This week, Sorokin’s guest on “The Anna Delvey Show” was model and rocker Julia Cumming of the New York City band, Sunflower Bean.
During a discussion about what makes a real New Yorker, Cumming says Sorokin’s impact in the city qualifies her.
“You are the first person I’ve ever hung out with under house arrest," she said. "So that’s a huge accomplishment.”
Sorokin agreed that she didn’t know anyone under house arrest either.
Cumming responded: “It’s like you and Lindsay Lohan,” who was under house arrest in Los Angeles more than a decade ago.
Sorokin believes her notoriety makes it’s easy for her to bring guests on the show.
“I can get pretty much anybody up here,” she said with brash confidence.
But there’s one guest she won’t be able to get: Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, who just began an 11-year prison sentence for overseeing a blood-testing hoax that became a parable about greed and hubris in Silicon Valley.
“I’d love to speak to Elizabeth. I definitely think she’s an interesting person,” Sorokin said. “I can relate a little bit more is because we’re both females and have been trying to build something.”
She would also consider having U.S. Rep. George Santos on the podcast, but doesn't feel she has much in common with him. The New York Republican who fabricated an identity as a rich, Wall Street dealmaker while running for Congress, and was recently charged in a 13-count indictment that included fraud, money laundering, and theft of public funds.
“I’m sure some of it is true, some of it — it’s not,” Sorokin said of things written about Santos.
She added: “I get so many requests to give George Santos advice, jail advice or something. I kind of stayed away from that.”
So, for now, the subject of the “Inventing Anna” series waits to find out if people tune into the podcast, available this week on all major platforms — and if her campaign to reinvent herself works.
AP journalist Anna Furman contributed reporting from Los Angeles.