'Fake heiress' Anna Sorokin has been jailed by ICE for 7 months with her immigration status in limbo
- Anna Sorokin, who pretended to be a European heiress by the name of
Anna Delvey, has been in immigration detention for 7 months. ICEdetained Sorokin after she completed her criminal sentence.
Sorokin - a German national who rose to fame when she scammed New York's SoHo scene pretending to be an heiress named "Anna Delvey" - was released from a New York state prison in February after serving a sentence on theft and larceny charges.
But on March 25, ICE detained Sorokin. She overstayed her visa, and an immigration judge ruled she should remain in custody ahead of deportation.
Nearly seven months later, Sorokin still hasn't been deported to Germany. She remains detained in Orange County jail in Goshen, New York, as her attorney, Audrey A. Thomas, has appealed orders for her deportation and applied for Sorokin to be granted asylum.
While most people in immigration detention are asylees and immigrants from Central and South America, according to the American Immigration Council, Sorokin's ordeal illuminates the Kafkaesque legal system in which those detainees are trapped.
Immigration judges have the power to release people from custody until their status is finalized, but even someone as high-profile and resource-rich as Sorokin - who is the subject of an upcoming Netflix series and multiple magazine profiles, has hired an immigration lawyer, and has filed a federal lawsuit against the Justice Department for her release - can remain detained indefinitely.
Thomas told Insider that Sorokin's continued detention makes little sense. She said she's represented clients who had been convicted of violent crimes and still were released, with ankle monitoring bracelets.
Sorokin remains incarcerated even though she's completed a prison sentence for non-violent crimes, paid back her victims, and shown up to scheduled parole hearings.
"I have at least three cases where they released violent predicate felons with ankle bracelets," Thomas told Insider. "So why not her?"
Sorokin completed her prison sentence - then ICE took her in
Sorokin first became famous in 2018, following stories from New York magazine, Vanity Fair, and The New York Post about her scheme pretending to be a wealthy European heiress to bilk money from banks and other financial institutions.
In May 2019, a jury convicted Sorokin on charges of theft, larceny, and attempted theft and larceny for the scheme. She was released from a New York jail in February 2021 after serving three-and-a-half years of a four-year sentence, which included time she spent at Rikers Island jail ahead of her trial.
Netflix has since paid Sorokin $320,000 to make a show about her, as Insider first reported, and Sorokin used most of the money to pay her victims. The miniseries, "Inventing Anna," produced by Shonda Rhimes and starring "Ozark" actress Julia Garner as Sorokin, is due for release later in 2021 or early 2022.
Although Sorokin has paid restitution, she plans to appeal her guilty verdict. In her first interview after her release, she told Insider that prison was "a huge waste of time." She maintained she had a legitimate business plan that fell apart before it could be fully realized.
Sorokin spent several free weeks in New York, signing a lease for an apartment in Manhattan and developing deals for a fashion line and media projects.
Then ICE detained her after she reported to immigration authorities on March 25. An immigration judge ruled she should remain in custody, siding with an ICE attorney who claimed she wasn't rehabilitated.
Court records show ICE attorneys cited Sorokin's Instagram posts, blog posts, and media interviews like the one she gave to Insider, where Sorokin maintained her innocence and said the prison system needs reform, to argue for her detention.
Thomas told Insider that the parole board had already weighed those remarks and concluded that Sorokin should be released.
"Those posts and newspaper articles were considered by the court, and the parole board found that she wasn't a threat and released her, having considered the very same thing that [immigration authorities] did," Thomas said.
In the following months, Thomas filed motions on Sorokin's behalf asking immigration authorities to halt her deportation and grant her asylum. In the federal lawsuit, Thomas initially said Sorokin applied for asylum because of "death threats and other issues she faced as a result of the media attention and fame that resulted from her arrest," but those reasons were later removed. Thomas declined to discuss the details of Sorokin's asylum application with Insider, saying she wasn't authorized to speak about them.
Thomas also asked that Sorokin be released from custody until her immigration status is finalized, but the Justice Department's Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) didn't schedule one for months.
Paul O'Dwyer, a New York-based immigration attorney, told Insider that while it's possible Sorokin could be released from jail while an immigration judge determines whether she deserves asylum, it's unlikely.
"There's a discretionary component to asylum applications, meaning that even if she was eligible for it, the judge still has discretion to deny it on the basis that she doesn't have good moral character, or that she has a history of bad acts, which make her undesirable," O'Dwyer said.
Immigration authorities use snail mail, which slows the process
Thomas filed a "writ of habeas corpus" lawsuit in August against the Department of Homeland Security, arguing Sorokin should have a bond hearing. On September 27, US District Judge Jesse Furman ordered the EOIR to hold a hearing for Sorokin "at which ICE bears the burden of establishing, by clear and convincing evidence, that she poses a danger to the community or a flight risk."
An EOIR judge held that bond hearing on October 7. Thomas told Insider the court never emailed her about the hearing, and that she'd only been notified about it by physical mail two days afterward, on October 9.
Thomas said she was able to attend the hearing only because Sorokin told her about it in a phone call shortly before it began. The lawyer told Insider she participated in the hearing over the phone while hospitalized because of a health issue.
At the hearing, the immigration judge ruled that Sorokin should continue to be detained. Thomas said the court has ignored her requests to email her the ruling, and is once again sending it to her by snail mail. But without a written copy, Thomas said, she can't appeal the ruling back to a federal judge.
"I asked him to email me the notice immediately so I can immediately run back to federal court. They refuse to email it to me," Thomas said. "And to this day, I still haven't gotten to any decision in the mail. So there's nothing I can do because you can't appeal."
Representatives for ICE directed Insider to EOIR for comment. A representative for EOIR said Insider needed to file a Freedom of Information Act request in order to see the immigration judge's order; Insider's FOIA request remains pending.
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