Spectacular read: a profile of Anna Sorokin, a con-artist who convinced New York that she was a high-rolling socialite trust-funder

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/05/30/guess-whos-coming-to-dinner.html


Defense Strategy: “performance artist gambit”.


The poor banks! The poor hotels! This woman is a monster!


I see this whole comedy as perhaps a corollary of Freud’s “Anatomy is destiny” quote. In this case, I’m guessing Sorokin’s dupes at least partially determined her destiny based on her anatomy.


This should go to the “You monster” thread.


So I guess she’s going to be president in 40 years or so?


Kinda tempting to think, what the hell, more power to her, it’s not like much of those oceans of hoarded Manhattan money was gained through honest means either.

(But yeah, she did scam a lot of little people along the way.)


I just finished reading a short history of Charles Ponzi’s famous career, and see an interesting parallel here.

The fascinating thing to my mind was that when he had his great “postal coupon” investment scam going, he did not jump at the opportunity to clear out his accounts and skip town either while the con was on the upswing, or even after it started to crumble, while he still had millions in the bank (and this was millions of 1920 dollars, probably equivalent to hundreds of millions today.)

Instead, once the runs on his “investment fund” started, along with investigations from federal and state Attorneys General, he kept calmly sauntering into his office each day and arranged extra cashiers and desks to be set up to pay out all the investors demanding their money back. He kept this up until the money was all gone - and then some, as his bank had twisted themselves into supporting him and handed out an extra half million in overdrafts - and then he got arrested. Did he think if he brazened it out calmly enough, everything would settle down and people would go back to throwing money at him? Had he convinced himself he was legit? Did he just not know what else to do at that point?

I wonder if perhaps what happened with him or with Ms. Sorokin, is that if you’re a talented enough con-artist and crook, and if you can convince enough of the people who surround you that you’re not a con-artist but the real deal, you start in turn believing the people you’ve surrounded yourself with that you really must be a super smart, nice, and rich person, and you can’t possibly be a con-artist. And so when the fatal time comes and it all starts to fall apart, they fail to cut and run.


Having just finished the Anna S story, I’d say yes, I think that parallel fits. Even in prison, she seems to sincerely believe she didn’t do much of anything all that wrong.


This in turn reminds me of John Bennett’s New Era scam in Philadelphia.

Bennett had the opportunity to run, but instead he stuck around until the pyramid inevitably collapsed and everything fell apart around his ears.

It seemed to me at the time that Bennett had a deep psychological need to be part of the wealthy elite, a sick obsession, that made it worthwhile for him to spend the rest of his life behind bars if he could attend just one more Founding Families gala as a respected philanthropist, hobnobbing with the hereditary .01% as their social equal.

A lot of really old, really important cultural institutions were irreparably harmed by Bennett’s scam. :frowning:


Here’s another story by someone she ripped off from back in April


I think you pretty well nailed down the difference between a malignant narcissist (someone with narcissistic personality disorder compounded by strong antisocial personality disorder features) and a “sociopath” (which has become so twisted by Hollywood that it’s basically meaningless).

The narcissist really has this sort of self-blindness going on, and the real core feature of antisocial is a form of consequence-blindness. So on one hand you have someone that is only capable of seeing a kind of fantasy version of themselves, and on the other someone that isn’t particularly capable of appreciating that anything bad is going to happen to them, even though they would correctly predict bad things happening to anyone else that was in their particular situation.

Put those two together and boy howdy do you get some insane cons. It’s almost as if, as a species, we have this blind spot for highly self-assured people that couldn’t possibly be crazy enough to be lying about something like this - because crazy people aren’t socially charming, wonderfully warm people, right?

And that’s how you get people like Trump getting elected, at least if they luck into exactly the right circumstances and nobody around them has the guts to call them on their bullshit, because for various reasons that would be a bad move for them personally, or just because somebody else will so why get involved, yada yada… And boom, they eventually self-destruct, but only once they’ve done too much damage to be ignored.

Which, as a side note, is why I find it hilarious that people keep saying that Trump will resign. Of course he won’t, and he’ll continue acting like a “very stable genius” even through trial and sentencing, and by corollary that lack of breaking down and admitting any wrongdoing will mean that there will always be a certain percentage of the country that’ll never believe he did anything wrong.

…Any word on a bug fix patch for the human brain? This alpha release bullshit is killing me.



Her apparently earnest belief that she could ride the fictions into success made me wonder how many people have done the same thing but actually got away with it/succeeded in their endeavors. With the more pedestrian phenomenon of people faking their way through interviews to get jobs they’re not qualified for mixed with the fact that she showed that you could fake quite a bit (minus the actually illegal wire transfer fraud), it seems like someone somewhere must have, just by sheer luck, stumbled into a scenario without the deeper repercussions of the con.


Wasn’t that an award-winning movie?


The book is even better!



From this article and the Vanity Fair piece it looks like she was very good at identifying and cultivating marks who either served the ultrawealthy (e.g. the concierge, the trainer, the real estate lawyer, the photo editor) or who were dimwitted courtiers (e.g. the magazine editor and the other jet-setters).

She would only run into trouble when she tried to put one over for big money on the banks and real estate developers and landlords, who spotted her for what she was very quickly – at that point she had to resort to fake documents and cheque kiting.

The other thing this article illustrates is how different things are when you’re wealthy (or when people think you are). Just try to check into a luxury hotel like she did without providing a credit card, and without being asked for one for over a month in residence because you promise a wire transfer will arrive any day now. It’s a different lifestyle.

The most talented grifters follow Costanza’s rule:


Are we victim-blaming now? /s

Honestly, I think this kind of self-delusion is increasingly a part of the American mentality, the reification of “you can be whatever you want to be” and “whatever you believe is true is true”. It isn’t so very different from the Dolezal story (see other thread).


Except Dolezal is finding out the hard way that no matter how much she believes it, the Black community will never truly accept her as a Black person.

Had she ‘kept it one hunnid’ ad the young folks used to say, she might have gotten much respect as an advocate, and her work with the NAACP might even have been more effective, because there are still many White folks who won’t listen to reason unless it’s being stated by other White folks… but instead she lied, and misrepresented herself; which only undermined any good work that she might have previously accomplished.