The First Interview With Anna Sorokin Since Being Released From Jail
Minutes after immigration agents dropped Anna Sorokin off at her fifth-floor walk-up apartment in the East Village of Manhattan late Friday night, she returned downstairs dressed in black-framed glasses, a hoodie and sweats, a monitor loosely hanging from her ankle. Beneath her apartment was a check-cashing business.
Ms. Sorokin, 31, lived for several years in the 2010s as Anna Delvey, a socialite with a trust fund of her own invention, persuading members of Manhattan’s elite to invest in a members-only arts club named after herself, all the while using the ill-gotten funds to pay for the very designer lifestyle that had first allured them.
In 2019, a Manhattan jury convicted her of a range of financial crimes, including grand larceny and stealing at least one flight on a private jet. After completing her criminal sentence in February 2021, she was released for six weeks before being detained by immigration authorities for 18 months for overstaying her visa. (Ms. Sorokin was born in what was then the Soviet Union and has German citizenship.)
In a series of interviews beginning shortly after her criminal trial, her tone has shifted from one of defiance to something nearing an apology. Reviewing that later interview, Judge Charles R. Conroy of federal immigration court ruled this week that while he didn’t believe she was remorseful, Ms. Sorokin was no longer a danger to the community — provided she remains on house arrest, wears an ankle monitor and stays off social media. She was released from the Orange County Correctional Facility in Goshen, N.Y., Friday afternoon. (The Department of Homeland Security has 30 days to appeal the judge’s decision.)
Inside the apartment building, Ms. Sorokin’s immigration documents — stuffed in trash bags for transport from the facility — slumped against the staircase. Leaving the bags by the foot of the stairs, she made her way up to her sparsely furnished one-bedroom apartment.
There, shortly before midnight, she sat down for her first interview since being released to discuss her time in immigration detention, her evolution since her Delvey days and what she plans to do now that she’s no longer behind bars. The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
After 18 months in ICE detention, you’re out on house arrest with an ankle bracelet. How do you feel?
I’m really happy. Nothing was guaranteed. They denied bail before. It was an exercise in perseverance. So many immigration lawyers told me I’d get deported to Mars before I’d get out in New York. And I just had to find the person who’d align with my vision, not accept “no” for an answer and make it happen.
Walk me through the day you were released.
I got released around 4 p.m. from Orange County, and then around 6:30 they brought me to 26 Federal Plaza — exactly the place I got arrested in March last year. I sat there in a little holding room. I kept knocking on the window. I was like, “Can you just tell me what’s going on?” And they were showing me the thumbs-up and signaling “patience.” The ICE guys drove me here 11-ish; they handed me over to Chris, my art dealer; we went on the rooftop really quick; and then you literally caught me 15 to 20 minutes after I got here.
You didn’t have to stay behind bars. You could have fought your immigration status from Germany.
I just did not want it to go down the way ICE wanted it to. Letting them deport me would have been like a sign of capitulation — confirmation of this perception of me as this shallow person who only cares about obscene wealth, and that’s just not the reality. I could have left, but I chose not to because I’m trying to fix what I’ve done wrong. I have so much history in New York and I felt like if I were in Europe, I’d be running from something. But if jail does not prove people wrong, then what will?
How was detention?
You’re always at somebody else’s mercy. Getting anything for myself, it was just impossible. While waiting on the outside, at least you can do that. I mean, not me, but …
So why is house arrest better?
Better food, I guess. And I can have visitors beyond just 1:30 p.m. on Thursdays. We’ll just see what I can do from here. I guess everybody will be coming to me.
What are you most excited about doing now that you’re out?
Finding my way back.
With an ankle bracelet.
With an ankle bracelet, yeah. Apparently if I have any issues with it, then somebody will come fix it. It’s a 24/7 service. I’m thinking what I can do with it.
You want to glam it up?
I’m not a glam-it-up type of person, but the possibilities are endless.
When we spoke earlier this year, you said that you had changed a lot since the crimes you committed in your mid-20s. But the judge’s order doesn’t seem convinced of your remorse.
I definitely have a way different perspective now than I did when I came out the first time last February. It’s just impossible to have been through what I’ve been through without changing. I learned so much being in jail. There’s a very well-documented arc about how I’ve felt about everything. It wouldn’t be right if I were just to switch in one day. That would be very disingenuous. It’s a process. I am regretful about the way things played out. The way I’ve tried to see my experience is to learn from it: Who I am today is because of the decisions I made in the past.
You got the news you could leave Wednesday morning, but you didn’t have an apartment. Fast-forward to Friday night, and here we are sitting in your living room. In this New York market, I’ve got to ask: How did you find an apartment so quickly, Anna?
John [Sandweg], my lawyer, found it for me. I obviously wasn’t able to do anything from jail. I have a great team around me, so it was all thanks to them.
You post bail, pay three months’ rent on a six-month lease for a one-bedroom apartment in the East Village. Where’s all the money coming from?
I guess you’ll have to ask the government.
Is the bail and apartment money yours?
How do you plan to support yourself going forward?
I’ve not figured my whole life out in two days. But I’ve managed to do something out of my life while being in jail, so I guess this will be a little easier.
Is your ultimate goal to be an artist?
I have so many projects that I’m working on. Art is definitely one of them.
So you don’t want to be hemmed into just art?
I have a lot going on. I’m working on my own podcast with different guests for each episode. But it’s not shaped up yet. It was pretty hard to record anything high quality from jail. And then there’s my book. I’d love to do something with criminal-justice reform to kind of highlight the struggles of other girls.
Where does your celebrity status fit into your future plans?
It’s literally the last thing I’m thinking about right now. I don’t feel like I have a lot of control over it, especially now that I’m in house confinement without access to social media or electronics.
You’ve been really active on social media, even from behind bars, with members of your team posting to your one million Instagram followers. The social media ban will be a big change.
Maybe that’s for the best? It’s really hard to tune out distractions. Hopefully, it’s not forever.
Do you plan to keep to the all-day schedule you had in jail, coordinating with people from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.?
I don’t know. I’ll have to do so many things. I’m really excited right now, so it’s pretty hard to sleep. I mean, you guys, I literally just got out of jail!
You have been and will continue to be under intense scrutiny going forward, from ICE officials as well as the public at large.
I perform better under pressure. So many people just can’t wait to see me do something crazy, or illegal, and go back to jail. I would not want to give them the satisfaction.
The first time we spoke at Rikers, I asked about your parents. And I know those relationships are complicated, especially with your mom. How have they felt about these past years of court proceedings?
My parents, especially my dad, are pretty sarcastic. They’re like, “Well, how many more years are you going to be in jail?” But they accepted that this is what I want. I’m not choosing some questionable path, I’m actually trying to improve and learn, and I hope they understand and respect my choices. I talk to them every other day.
Your mom, too?
My mom, too. I try to call at night, so they tend to be together.
This isn’t the end of your immigration case. You could still be deported.
My immigration case is just beginning. I’m creating a lot of jobs for my lawyers. So everybody’s happy.
How long could this immigration process take?
When you’re detained, you’re a priority, but once you’re released, you’re on a different docket, and because of Covid, there’s like a two-million-case backlog. I think it’s going to be a longer case.
So you’ll be in New York for a while.
I’m really, really happy about that. That’s exactly what I wanted. I’m just hoping to get more freedom eventually. And hopefully, ICE will see that New York will remain safe — even if one day I’m able to leave this apartment.