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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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Twitter Considers Subscription Models After Ad Revenue Drops

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  • Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has announced that the company is considering plans to integrate a subscription model on the platform.
  • Reportedly, that would likely be in the form of an ad-free version of Twitter.
  • The news, which was speculated earlier this month after a job listing from the company appeared, comes amid a 23% decline in the platform’s ad sales compared to this time last year. 
  • It also comes one week after what is now arguably Twitter’s most alarming data breach ever. The company revealed Wednesday that hackers targeted 130 high profile accounts and even accessed the private messages of one elected official in the Netherlands.

Twitter Could Launch a Subscription Model This Year

Amid a sharp decline in advertisement sales, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has now said that the company is actively exploring adding a subscription-based model to the platform.

“You will likely see some tests this year” of different models, Dorsey said.

Dorsey revealed the plan on Thursday as Twitter reported its second-quarter earnings report. Notably, ad revenue accounted for $562 million, and while that might sound like jackpot-equivalent figures to the everyday person, it’s actually 23% dip in ad revenue for Twitter compared to the same quarter last year.

That’s also despite attracting a record 20 million daily active users to the platform during the same time period.

Part of the reason why Twitter is seeing slumping ad sales is due to many companies struggling to stay afloat—let alone to maintain ads—in the current COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, Twitter’s drop in ad sales are in line with the U.S. market as a whole, which saw a 25% decline in ad spending for Q2.

Another factor that could play into the drop off involves recent ad boycotts by some companies. Those boycotts have largely been driven by ongoing protests calling for racial justice and criticism that social media platforms are not doing enough to silence hate speech. 

Rumors that Twitter executives might be considering such a move already began to circulate earlier this month after the company posted a job opening seeking a senior software engineer that would join a “new team.”

According to the posting, that team would be focused on “building a subscription platform,” codenamed “Gryphon.” It’s unknown if that name will be used in the future.

Following this news, Twitter stocks surged—particularly because a subscription model would open up new revenue streams and raise the company’s value. After Dorsey’s official announcement, Twitter shares again rose on Thursday.

“First and foremost, we have a really high bar for when we would ask consumers to pay for aspects of Twitter,” Dorsey said in justification of the potential model. “We have focused majority of our attention on increasing revenue durability, meaning that we have multiple lines of revenue to pull from. But most importantly, we want to make sure that any new line of revenue is complementary to our advertising business.”

Essentially, don’t expect to start having to pay to post that tweet that you just know is going to explode with likes; reportedly, Twitter’s subscription model will likely be an ad-free version of the platform. 

“The prospect of a paid version of Twitter—free from trackers, annoying ads and irritating algorithms which meddle with the clean chronology of the timeline—has been a holy grail for certain Twitter addicts since (basically) forever,” Natasha Lomas wrote for Tech Crunch. “So plenty of its most fervent users will be watching keenly to see exactly what Dorsey cooks up.”

Some social media platforms, such as YouTube, have already launched subscription services; however, YouTube’s model is more closely aligned to that of streaming providers. Twitter’s most direct competitors—Facebook and Instagram—are completely free and devoid of subscription models. Like Twitter, both platforms rely on ads. 

The Extent of That Massive Twitter Hack

Twitter’s stunted earnings follow what Dorsey called a “tough week” for the platform. In fact, it was arguably one of Twitter’s worst weeks ever as a massive bitcoin hack compromised dozens of high profile accounts.

The victims of the hack include of a wide scope of public figures, ranging from reality star Kim Kardashian-West to former President Barack Obama and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Twitter revealed the further extent of that hack Wednesday and just how deep its security breach is believed to have stretched. 

“We believe that for up to 36 of the 130 targeted accounts, the attackers accessed the DM inbox, including 1 elected official in the Netherlands,” Twitter said in a tweet. “To date, we have no indication that any other former or current elected official had their DMs accessed.”

“We feel terrible about the security incident,” Dorsey said Thursday. “Security doesn’t have an end point. It’s a constant iteration… We will continue to go above and beyond here as we continue to secure our systems and as we continue to work with external firms and law enforcement.”

See what others are saying: (CNN Business) (Variety) (Tech Crunch)

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We Need To Talk About The Portland “Secret Police” Videos Controversy & Why Your City May Be Next

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Georgia Gov. Bans Local Government From Requiring Masks

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  • Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp suspended all local mask mandates in the state on Wednesday.
  • Around 15 cities and counties had mask requirements in place, but now people in the state are just “strongly encouraged” to voluntarily wear masks when out in public.
  • This order was met with a lot of backlash from local leaders who see it as a direct threat to public health. 
  • Republican leaders in states like Oklahoma are also holding back on issuing mask mandates, while some, like Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, have decided to enact them.

Gov. Kemp’s Order

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads throughout Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp is suspending all local governments from enforcing mandatory mask orders in the state. 

In an executive order issued Wednesday, Georgians were “strongly encouraged to wear face coverings” when in public, but the directive stopped cities and counties from enacting requirements of their own. According to the Associated Press, around 15 local governments had already adopted these kinds of mandates. 

Kemp has long stated that local leaders have no power in enforcing these kinds of rules, but this order makes it official. 

“No local action can be more or less restrictive than ours,” Kemp’s communications director wrote on Twitter. “We have explained that local mask mandates are unenforceable.”

Kemp is still encouraging those in his state to wear masks voluntarily, however, he previously told the Atlanta Constitution-Journal that a government mandate would be “bridge too far.”

“There’s some people that just do not want to wear a mask,” Kemp said. “I’m sensitive to that from a political environment of having people buy into that and creating other issues out there.”

Health officials have repeatedly said that masks are one of the most effective ways of slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Several studies have proven them to block transmission. Countries that had widespread mask-wearing have seen lower death rates from the coronavirus. 

Response From Local Leaders

The state has seen a total of 127,834 cases and 3,091 deaths, and on Wednesday, 3,871 new cases were reported, which is their second-highest daily case count to date. Given the rising number of cases, Kemp’s order was met with backlash from local leaders. 

Governor Kemp does not give a damn about us,” wrote Savannah mayor Van Johnson. Every man and woman for himself/herself. Ignore the science and survive the best you can.”

Dunwoody mayor Lynn Deutsch posted a Twitter thread claiming that this order leaves grocery store employees, retail workers, and restaurant servers “caught in the battle” between Kemp and local governments. 

“Our small businesses asked us to mandate masks,” she wrote.  “Their employees are worried about being exposed. Without our mandate, some customers are pushing back and arguing about wearing a mask.”

Deutsch also says that this comes as hospitals in the area are struggling with patient increases and community spread.

“Incredibly sad for my community and Georgia tonight. Sorry that the Governor has chosen to politicize your health,” she added.

Mask Rules in Other States

Kemp is not the only governor in the country standing by the choice to not mandate masks. When Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt announced Wednesday that he tested positive for the coronavirus, he claimed he did not regret his choice not to wear masks more frequently. 

“I don’t really second-guess anything,” he said in a press conference. 

“I’m just hesitant to mandate something that’s problematic to enforce,” he later added when asked about imposing a state-wide mask requirement. 

However, other Republican governors have recently made the choice to enforce mask mandates. In Alabama, Governor Kay Ivey announced that as of Thursday, the state will follow a mandatory mask requirement. That mandate will expire when the state’s stay at home order ends, which is currently at the end of the month. 

“We are almost to the point where our hospital ICUs are overwhelmed,” she said during a press conference. “Earlier this week 87% of our ICU beds statewide were occupied. Folks, the numbers just do not lie.”

Cases and deaths as a result of the coronavirus are on the rise in Alabama. Texas has seen a similar increase. At the start of July, Governor Greg Abbott ordered that most Texans wear masks in public. This mandate applied to anyone in a county with more than 20 confirmed COVID-19 cases. 

See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Atlanta Constitution-Journal) (The Hill)

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