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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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At Least 60 Treated After Delta Jet Dumps Fuel Over LA Schools

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  • A Delta flight headed for Shanghai was ordered to return to LAX shortly after departure due to an engine issue. 
  • To reach a safe landing weight, the plane released jet fuel that showered over six LA schools, causing minor injuries to at least 60 students and adults. 
  • Though rare, fuel dumping typically happens at high altitudes or over an unpopulated area. 
  • Local officials are demanding answers and accountability and the Federal Aviation Administration is launching an investigation to understand why normal fuel dumping procedures were not followed. 

Dozens Treated for Injuries 

At least 60 people were treated for minor injuries on Tuesday after a Delta flight making an emergency return to Los Angeles International Airport dumped fuel over several local schools.  

A spokesperson for the Los Angeles Unified School district confirmed that a low-flying plane discharged jet fuel around noon, however, the district could not confirm how many campuses were affected. Based on reports of injuries, it’s estimated that it was at least six. 

Approximately 20 schoolchildren and 11 adults from Park Avenue Elementary School were treated after they were exposed to fuel that rained on over a playground, according to LA County firefighters. 

In a statement, the district said, “Students and staff were on the playground at the time and may have been sprayed by fuel or inhaled fumes. Schools immediately called paramedics, who are on the scene and are treating anyone who is complaining of skin irritation or breathing problems.”

“Educators are also visiting every classroom to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all students and staff,” it added. 

Several other students and adults treated were from San Gabriel Avenue Elementary and Tweedy Elementary in South Gate, Jordan High and 93rd Street Elementary in South Los Angeles and Graham Elementary in Inglewood. 

Many patients complained of skin and eye irritation but were treated with soap and water and were not taken to the hospital. Others also reported a strong toxic smell that lingered in neighborhoods, making it hard to breathe. 

Emergency Landing 

LAX officials said a Delta Boeing 777 on its way to Shanghai when it declared a mechanical emergency shortly after takeoff and was ordered to return to the airport. 

According to an online flight tracker, the plane turned around just 24 minutes after departure. 

None of the 149 passengers on board were injured and the aircraft landed safely after the release of fuel, which Delta said was “required as part of normal procedure to reach a safe landing weight.”

However, according to aviation safety experts, the move is rare and in most cases, it’s done over water or unpopulated areas at a high altitude so that the fuel can disperse and vaporize before reaching the ground. 

Delta released a statement about the incident acknowledging the impact it had, saying, “We are concerned about reports of impacts on the ground from the fuel release, and are in close communication with Delta and first responders as their investigators continue. We thank LA County Fire, the LA Fire Department and other responding agencies for their fast response and we are working to learn more.”

Locals Demand Investigation 

Residents and local officials have expressed anger over the incident, demanding answers and action. 

“Sadly, our entire community has been adversely impacted by this incident, including dozens of children,” Cudahy City Councilman Jack Guerrero said. “I am calling for a full federal investigation into the matter and expect full accountability from responsible parties.”

On Tuesday afternoon, the Federal Aviation Administration promised to investigate. 

“The FAA is thoroughly investigating the circumstances behind today’s incident involving a Delta Air Lines flight that was returning to Los Angeles International Airport,”  the agency said in a statement before acknowledging that the move was unusual.

“There are special fuel-dumping procedures for aircraft operating into and out of any major U.S. airport. These procedures call for fuel to be dumped over designated unpopulated areas, typically at higher altitudes so the fuel atomizes and disperses before it reaches the ground,” the agency added.

Health officials advise anyone who might have been hit by the jet fuel to shower, get rid of the clothing sprayed, and seek medical attention if symptoms persist.

See what others are saying: (CBS LA) (Los Angeles Times) (USA Today

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Adam Driver Fans Donate Nearly $70,000 to His Non-Profit in Honor of Ben Solo Performance

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  • A GoFundMe page dedicated to honoring Adam Driver’s performance in recent Star Wars films has raised nearly $70,000 for the actor’s non-profit. 
  • Driver’s organization, Arts In The Armed Forces, provides arts programming to active duty members, veterans, and their families free of cost. 
  • The actor thanked his fans for their support in a video message posted Tuesday.

GoFundMe Created 

While Star Wars fans may have mixed opinions about The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and The Rise of Skywalker, it seems that most agree actor Adam Driver delivered a stellar performance as Kylo Ren/Ben Solo in all three films. 

Just before the release of The Rise of Skywalker, posts appeared on a subreddit dedicated to leaks and rumors about the Star Wars franchise confirming previously guessed details about the film’s plot. Of course, that quickly set off heated debates about the movie, but rather than endlessly spewing criticism online, some decided to focus on praising Driver for his work. 

On December 18, a GoFundMe page was created by a user named “Matt the Radar Technician,” on behalf of the /r/StarWarsLeaks subreddit. The user encouraged people to donate to Driver’s non-profit, Arts in the Armed Forces, to honor him for his performance. 

Driver, who previously served as a U.S. Marine, founded the organization in 2006 with his now-wife Joanne Tucker with the goal of bringing free high-quality arts programming to active-duty members of the armed forces, as well as veterans, military support staff, and their families. The organization offers a variety of opportunities and experiences including film screenings, internships, contests, stage productions, and more. 

The GoFundMe page descriptions reads: “Adam Driver’s portrayal of Kylo Ren/Ben Solo has been one of the greatest things to ever happen in the last three movies of the Star Wars saga. As a way of showing gratitude and appreciation for his hard work and because we believe in the mission of AITAF – using art as a tool to more fully understand ourselves and heal – we at r/StarWarsLeaks have decided to set up this fundraiser.”

The user went on to say that they hope this gesture shows how much Driver’s work impacts people. 

Fans Raise Thousands 

The page quickly spread across social media and was met with support from both fans and critics of the film. For some critics, it became an opportunity to channel their frustration about the film’s ending into something positive. 

Those who donated to the cause also showed their appreciation in messages left alongside their contributions. 

“Ben Solo’s ending may have left many of us feeling stunned and wanting a different ending, but being able to channel and rationalize those stirred emotions into something positive brings us closer to closure – it serves to reminds us what a great actor you are and how we want to say a heartfelt thank you by supporting what’s close to your heart,” one supporter wrote.

“I had plans in December to go and see TROS many times in the theatre so hopeful was I to see Ben Solo get justice…We didn’t get that. So instead of giving my money to DLF, I gladly put it to good use for AITAF,” another shared.

Driver Thanks Fans 

Though Driver isn’t on social media himself, news of the GoFundMe page caught his attention. On Tuesday, the actor shared a video message to his fans via the AITAF’s Twitter account. 

“It means a whole lot to me that this thing exists, and that so many people have participated in it,” he said in the post. “Not only did you buy a ticket to see the movie, but now you’re also giving money on top of it to this organization that I deeply care about, so I just wanted to take a moment from me to you to say: thank you very much.”

Joonas Suotamo, who plays Chewbacca in the sequel films, then took to Twitter to share the message and encourage fans to increase the fundraising goal to $75,000.  

Donations have continued to pour in and stand at about $70,000 as of Wednesday morning. 

See what others are saying: (ComicBook) (Men’s Health) (Comic Years

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AOC and Sanders Ask for HIV Medicine Patent to be Rejected

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  • A petition filed by advocacy group PrEP4All Collaboration alleges that biotech company Gilead Sciences suspended the development of a potentially safer HIV prevention drug for five years in 2005 so they could continue to profit from their current monopoly on the market, despite the fact that it was less safe. 
  • Gilead is asking now asking to extend the patent on the new drug while PrEP4All is asking for this patent to be rejected. 
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also wrote a joint letter urging the Trump administration to reject this request, calling the alleged practice a “disgrace.”
  • Gilead has denied these accusations.

Petition Filed Against Gilead

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) are calling on the Trump administration to reject a patent extension request from Gilead Sciences after the company was accused of delaying the development of a safer HIV prevention drug. 

A petition filed by advocacy group PrEP4All Collaboration alleges that when Gilead suspended the development of a newer and potentially safer HIV prevention drug in 2005, it did so in order to maximize its monopoly on profits from its less-safe drug that was already on the market. The petition says they wanted to leave this old drug on the market until its patent expired, and before generic competition came up. The company did not submit the new drug, tenofovir alafenamide, or TAF, to the Food and Drug Administration until 2010. It was approved in 2015. 

According to a report from the Washington Post, Gilead is currently requesting that its patent on TAF be extended for another three years. PrEP4All is asking the Patent and Trademark Office to reject this request because of this allegation. 

TAF is meant to prevent HIV infections via a process called pre-exposure prophylaxis, also known as PrEP. Extending the patent would make sure they had a monopoly on the drug. 

Letter from Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez

PrEP4All’s fight got a new push of support on Monday when Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez gave their support. In a letter to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office obtained by The Guardian, the leaders condemned Gilead for these accusations. 

“It is an absolute disgrace that in America, a greedy drug company like Gilead can deprive hundreds of thousands of Americans of lifesaving HIV medicine to extract more profit, lie about it, and then have the audacity to ask the US government to award it with a longer monopoly to reap tens of billions more in profits,” Sanders wrote. 

Ocasio-Cortez said this practice “inhibited efforts to end the HIV epidemic.”

Together, the two urged the Trump administration to “not reward Gilead for this immoral behavior.” 

If the Trump administration followed their requests, it would not be the first time they took action against Gilead. In November, the administration sued the company in a patent infringement case. They accused the company of profiting off of taxpayer-funded research without giving taxpayer money back. 

Statements From Those Involved

Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders have not been the only ones to speak out. 

“Gilead has not only intentionally delayed clinical development of a drug to artificially manipulate its eligibility for a patent-term extension, but it has done so despite the apparent harm to patients,” said attorney Christopher Morten, who filed PrEP4All’s petition in a statement to the Washington Post. 

The Post says that the petition cites statements made by the company’s executives in 2011, where some indicated a desire to “avoid cannibalizing sales of the old drug” with the expectation that TAF could maintain the patent longevity of their HIV drug franchise. The petition also says that Gilead stated that clinical trials had indicated that TAF is safer than older drugs. A study funded by them found that restricting patients from the new drug could cause 16,000 deaths over the course of nine years.

Still, the Washington Post said the outcome of PrEP4All’s petition is not set in stone. 

“Odds of success are steep because the patent office will review such third-party petitions only in ‘extraordinary’ circumstances, according to its rules,” their report said. 

“Patient safety is of foremost importance to us, and any implication that Gilead delayed the development of a drug known to be safer than [the older drug] is false,’’ Gilead spokesperson Ryan McKeel said in a statement obtained by the Post.  

See what others were saying: (The Washington Post) (The Guardian) (The Advocate)

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