A con artist with flair

Would you give cash to a German heiress who can speak no German? There are plenty who would.

You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. Abraham Lincoln said that. Anna Delvey (real name Anna Sorokin) recently discovered the truth of it. Now locked up in Rikers Island (a place that is “not that bad at all actually”, she tells New York Magazine), Sorokin had lived a double life, posing as a German heiress in order to con banks, hotels and individuals into loaning her money while she ran up large unpaid bills.

She spent money “like she couldn’t get rid of it fast enough”, says Jessica Pressler in New York Magazine. Based on assurances about her wealth, Sorokin hired an army of lawyers, publicists and financiers to help her raise $25m to take a lease on 45,000 square foot of prime retail space in central New York.

And even as the hotel was changing the code to her room and putting her possessions in storage, she was renting a private jet so she could attend Berkshire Hathaway’s investment conference with an executive from the hedge fund headed by Martin Shkreli, famous for price-gouging pharmaceuticals and now in prison himself.

We see what we want to see

Most of Sorokin’s victims were companies or the super-rich – but others weren’t that well off. Photographer Rachel Williams recounts in Vanity Fair how she was invited by Sorokin to go on a luxury holiday in Marrakesh. After a supposedly minor “snafu” with Sorokin’s card, Williams was persuaded to cover the entire cost of the jaunt, while the supposed problem was resolved.

Once back in the US, however, Sorokin’s text messages “became increasingly Kafka-esque: assurances of incoming reimbursements through varying methods of payment that never materialised”. Williams finally realised she had been conned – she ended up $63,000 out of pocket, more than her annual salary.

Should we feel sorry for the victims? Caitlin Morrison has little sympathy. The story “raises questions about how eager people are to suspend their disbelief when there might be a monetary value to turning a blind eye”, she says in The Independent. It’s not that there were no red flags of warning. One that “wasn’t so much red as on fire and attached to a blaring foghorn” was that “she didn’t speak the language that she claimed was her native tongue”. The victims just “didn’t want to see or believe what was right in front of them”.

Still, it’s no surprise she wasn’t rumbled sooner, says Cory Doctorow for BoingBoing. As well as her undoubted “virtuosity at the con”, Sorokin was helped in her task by her shrewd decision to impersonate “a trust-fund kid”. This is “a kind of limited Turing Test that is much easier to pass than a full-blown impersonation of someone with skills, perspective and native intelligence”. Ironically, perhaps Sorokin’s biggest mistake was in pretending that “she was actually trying to do things, rather than just frittering away her unearned, bottomless Gilded Age inheritance”.

Tabloid money… rock-steady Eddie stands firms at the Beeb

• Eddie Mair, the host of Radio 4’s daily news magazine PM, is apparently the only one at the BBC to resist having his salary cut following the gender pay-gap row, says Jan Moir in the Daily Mail. “Honestly, I have nothing but admiration for his stance.” This is, after all, a mess of the BBC’s own making.

Besides, “Mair is one of the BBC’s brightest talents. If only they had chosen him to replace Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight! It would have been a must-watch instead of the sorry, glutinous porridge of PC babble it is today.” Instead, Mair has “infuriated Beeb managers” with his refusal to agree to a reduction of his salary, currently £300,000 to £350,000. “Stand firm, Eddie. I don’t mind paying my licence fee for you.”

• This week we found out why there aren’t more women in boardrooms, says Karren Brady in The Sun on Sunday. Women would not understand the “extremely complex” issues discussed at board level, one firm said. Another explained its all-male leadership by claiming “board colleagues wouldn’t want to appoint a woman”. A third said “most women don’t want the hassle or pressure of sitting on a board”.

“Wow. Talk about outrageous… These views are more suited to 1918 than 2018.” And all this despite the government-backed review that set a target for FTSE boards to have at least a third of their representation made up of women by 2020. That is not on course. “And is it any wonder with views like this?”

• Aussie singer Kylie Minogue is no less sublime for turning 50, says Vanessa Feltz in the Sunday Express. Yes, Kylie may not be married, have children or “currently be swooningly loved-up”. But if ever proof were needed that Kylie is, as the Americans say, “in a good place”, it is of the most “abundant, expensive [and] conclusive” kind: her birthday party.

“As her mates cascaded into London’s throbbing Chiltern Firehouse laden with gifts, it was abundantly clear Kylie is adored, supported and the hostess with the mostest… Who would imagine finding BBC Breakfast’s Naga Munchetty, hardcore rocker Chrissie Hynde, family favourite James Blunt and punster novelist Kathy Lette at the same jamboree?” Kylie, “we salute you”. “Here’s to the next 50 years.”