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NY State Is Trying to Stop a Fake Heiress From Profiting Off a Netflix Series About Her Crimes

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  • Anna Sorokin, the woman who pretended to be a Germain heiress to swindle banks, restaurants, hotels, and others out of thousands, agreed to a deal with Netflix to make a series about her crimes.
  • The deal would give her $100,000 for her story, as well as a $15,000-per-episode consulting fee and $7,500 in royalties per episode.
  • New York state is now working to stop Netflix from paying her, pointing to the “Son of Sam” law which was created to prevent criminals from profiting off their crimes.

Who is Anna Sorokin?

The state of New York is working to stop Netflix from paying fake heiress Anna Sorokin more than $100,000 to use her story for an upcoming series about her notorious scam. 

Sorokin, who was known in social circles as “Anna Delvey,” moved to New York City in 2013, claiming to be a German heiress with a $60 million trust fund. She lived in luxurious hotels for months at a time, ate at swanky restaurants, attended exclusive parties, and wore designer clothes.

But Sorokin, who was actually born to a middle-class family in Russia, frauded her way through life. According to prosecutors, she forged financial statements, made up accountants, and lied about wire transfers to get out of paying money that she owed to businesses, friends, and other socialites. 

The fake heiress, dubbed by the media as the “SoHo Scammer,” was arrested in 2017 and sentenced in May 2018 to four to 12 years in prison for multiple counts of theft and grand larceny. 

According to court documents, she was also ordered to pay $198,956.19 in restitution to the victims of her scam. Victims included hotels like The Beekman and the W New York, a private jet and helicopter service called Blade, and even City National Bank, who she managed to dupe into giving her a $100,000 loan to launch a private art club in Manhattan. 

Netflix Deal

Sorokin’s story picked up widespread attention in the summer of 2018 when Vanity Fair and The Cut published stories about her. HBO and Netflix later began working on projects about her as well, with Lena Dunham behind the HBO project and Shonda Rhimes behind the Netflix series. 

According to a new report by the New York Post, Netflix acquired the rights to Sorokin’s life story in June of 2018, months after her arrest, but before her trial began. The New York Times also reported that this was part of a larger deal to buy the rights to information detailed in an article published by New York Magazine’s Jessica Pressler in May 2018. 

Netflix’s contract with Sorokin allegedly gives her $100,000 for her story, along with a $15,000 per episode consultant fee, and $7,500 in royalties per episode, the Post reported citing court documents.

New York State Gets Involved 

The Post also reported that the first payout was $30,000 that went directly to Sorokin’s lawyer. Now New York State is trying to stop Sorokin from getting any money from Netflix for herself.  

In late May, the office of the New York State attorney general filed a request to block a $70,000 payment from Netflix that Sorokin was set to receive in June. The state cited the “Son of Sam” law, which is designed to stop criminals from profiting off publicity around their crimes. That legislation passed in 1977, after many speculated that a notorious serial killer might sell his story to a writer or filmmaker. 

Along with blocking the $70,000 payment, Attorney General Letitia James is also working to stop Sorokin from earning the consultant and royalty fees. On top of that, a judge in Albany temporarily ordered Netflix to not pay Sorokin until the matter is settled through litigation, except for the $30,000 for her attorney’s unpaid legal fees, according to court records obtained by the Times. 

“The monies sought to be preserved herein, constitute ‘profits from a crime,'” Assistant Attorney General Adele Durand wrote in recently-filed court papers cited by the Post.

Instead, Durand said the proceeds of Sorokin’s Netflix deal should be donated to the New York State Office of Victim Services, for redistribution to the people impacted by her crimes. 

Todd Spodek, Sorokin’s lawyer told the Times: “It has always been Ms. Sorokin’s intention to pay back her victims.”

“I anticipate resolving the issue without further litigation,” he added. 

This is somewhat similar to what Sorokin said to the Times in a jailhouse interview from May. According to the newspaper, she said she always had the intention to pay the money back and had been trying to raise millions for a social club she thought would be a lucrative investment. 

However, in that same interview, she admitted that she was not actually sorry for duping her victims.“I’d be lying to you and to everyone else and to myself if I said I was sorry for anything,” she said. “I regret the way I went about certain things.”

The Times also reported: “Ms. Sorokin was asked if, given the chance, she would do the same things again. Ms. Sorokin shrugged. ‘Yes, probably so,’ she said, laughing.”

As of now, the Netflix series is still in development. As far as the HBO production, that deal was struck with one Sorokin’s victims, former Vanity Fair photo editor Rachel Williams, who Sorokin stuck with a 62,000 bill for a trip to Morocco. Williams also published a book about her experience with Sorokin that was released on Tuesday.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The New York Post)  (Business Insider

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Pence and Harris Leave Questions Unanswered in Vice Presidential Debate, Fly Becomes Star of the Show

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  • While much more traditional in scope, Wednesday night’s vice presidential debate was riddled with unanswered questions.
  • Both Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Ca.) dodged or redirected questions about the U.S. Supreme Court, President Donald Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, and potential situations of presidential succession given the ages of both presidential candidates. 
  • Following last night’s event, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced Thursday that the second presidential debate will be virtual. On Fox Business, Trump then said he would refuse to participate in a virtual debate. 

A Far More Traditional Debate

Talking about Wednesday’s vice presidential debate would be impossible to do without addressing the elephant in the room — or in this case, the fly on Mike Pence’s head. 

The fly, which perched itself upon Pence’s stark white hair for more than two minutes about halfway through the debate, easily stole the show.

But that wasn’t exactly hard. The debate between current VP Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Ca.) was aboundingly more traditional than the debate last week between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden. 

“We want a debate that is lively, but Americans also deserve a discussion that is civil,” moderator Susan Page, USA TODAY’s Washington Bureau Chief, said Wednesday in a tongue-in-cheek reference to that debate. 

Mostly, both Harris and Pence did exactly what analysts expected. Harris pitched the case for Joe Biden, while Pence used Harris to paint Biden as much more liberal than he actually is. 

Main Theme: Unanswered Questions

Like any traditional debate, unanswered questions took center stage.

In one of her first questions, Page asked Pence — the head of the Coronavirus Task Force — why the U.S. death rate for COVID-19 was higher than almost every other country. 

Instead of answering why 210,000 Americans have died under the Trump Administration’s watch, Pence did what almost every political analyst expected he would do: He redirected the question and emphasized Trump’s move to restrict what he described as “all travel” from China in February.

But that’s not exactly true. While Trump did restrict travel, he didn’t outright ban it. There were still a lot of people this rule didn’t apply to

Pence then went on to insult Joe Biden, accusing him of calling the restrictions “xenophobic,” a point Pence came back to a few times throughout the night. That’s largely false. Yes, Biden has called Trump xenophobic, but those comments were never a direct reference to the travel restrictions. 

At one point, Page noted that both Biden and Trump are the oldest presidential candidates ever. Because of that, she asked Pence and Harris if they’ve had conversations with Trump and Biden, respectively, about presidential disability and succession. Again, neither gave a direct answer to Page’s question, and she did not continue to press it.

The same situation occurred later when Page asked both candidates what they would do if Trump refuses to a peaceful transition of power should he lose the election. Neither candidate actually answered the question. In fact, they mostly continued with the talking points they wanted to hit on.

At one point, Page also asked Pence if he thinks climate change is an existential threat. Rather than answering, he said, “The climate is changing. We’ll follow the science.” 

To note, the Trump administration has frequently ignored scientific evidence and even rolled back environmental regulations.

Unanswered Questions About SCOTUS 

In one of the most pivotal segments of the night, Page asked about the U.S. Supreme Court and Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination. 

During the segment, both Pence and Harris dodged her questions about Roe v. Wade and what should happen in their home states if it’s overturned. Of course, that’s not to say their positions on abortion are a secret. Pence is undeniably pro-life. Harris is staunchly pro-choice. 

“Are you and Joe Biden going to pack the court if Judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed?” Pence asked Harris directly during the segment. 

In recent weeks, several Democrats have called for adding more justices to the SCOTUS bench if the Senate pushes through Barrett’s confirmation ahead of the election. For his part, Biden has not addressed the issue.

Like Biden, Wednesday night, Harris did the same, quickly redirecting the question back to Pence in what arguably became the most contentious moment of the debate. 

“Let’s talk about packing—” Harris said. 

“You, once again, gave a non-answer,” Pence interrupted. “Joe Biden gave a non-answer.”

“I’m trying to answer you now.” Harris said.

“You know the people deserve a straight answer,” Pence said, “and if you haven’t figured it out yet, the straight answer is they are going to pack the Supreme Court if they somehow win this election.” 

“I’ve witnessed the appointments for lifetime appointments to the federal courts, district courts, courts of appeal, people who are purely ideological, people who have been reviewed by legal professional organizations and found who have been not competent or substandard,” Harris said several exchanges later.

“And do you know that of the 50 people who President Trump appointed to the court of appeals for lifetime appointments, not one is black? This is what they’ve been doing. You want to talk about packing a court? Let’s have that discussion.” 

Second Presidential Debate to be Virtual

Thursday morning, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced that the second presidential debate, scheduled for next week, will now be virtual “in order to protect the health and safety of all involved.”

While Biden pretty much immediately hopped on board, on Fox Business, Trump announced that he was pulling out of the debate. 

“I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate,” he said. “That’s not what debating is all about. You sit behind a computer and do a debate — it’s ridiculous. And then they cut you off whenever they want.” 

Trump Campaign Manager Bill Stepien added that Trump will now hold a rally instead.

According to the co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates, federal election laws forbid the hosting of a solo debate.

Despite Trump seemingly pulling the plug on this debate, there is precedent for virtual presidential debates. In 1960, both John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon debated remotely on opposite ends of the country.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (The New York Times) (ABC News)

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