Ex-friend of fake heiress sues Netflix over depiction in Inventing Anna series

Entertainment

A writer and photographer who was conned out of money by the fake heiress Anna Delvey is suing Netflix over the way she was depicted in a hit series based on the scammer’s story.

Rachel DeLoache Williams is a former friend of Delvey, whose real name is Anna Sorokin, a German woman convicted of posing as a wealthy heiress to scam banks, hotels and New York socialites.

A version of the story was told in the Inventing Anna series, starring Julia Garner as Delvey and Katie Lowes as Williams, which premiered on Netflix in February 2022.

According to court documents obtained by Sky News US affiliate E! News, Williams is suing Netflix for false light invasion of privacy and defamation for the way she was portrayed in the show, with her lawyer saying it caused “devastating damage”.

Anna Sorokin is sentenced in May 2019 after being convicted by a New York jury of swindling more than $200,000 from banks and people
Image:
The real Anna Sorokin, also known as Anna Delvey, was sentenced in 2019

‘Greedy, snobbish and dishonest’

Williams, who told her own side of the story in her book My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress, published in 2019, says scenes in Inventing Anna portrayed her in an inaccurate manner, depicting her as “a greedy, snobbish, disloyal, dishonest, cowardly, manipulative and opportunistic person”, according to a lawsuit filed on Monday.

Her complaint also alleges that she was not “sponging off” Sorokin, who was convicted in 2019, by “accepting gifts of expensive clothes, jewellery and accessories” or “allowing her to pay for all of their drinks, meals, manicures and saunas”.

She also says scenes in the series in which Lowes’ character abandons Anna during a trip to Morocco, while she was “alone and in trouble”, were untrue.

Read more: Who is Anna Delvey?

Williams, who is a former Vanity Fair photo editor, also denied that she was “lying to friends by concealing that she helped the police arrest”, as depicted in the series.

“In reality, she never did or said those things,” the lawsuit reads. “Thus, this action is based firmly on statements of fact which are demonstrably false and the attribution of statements that she never made.”

Inventing Anna was a huge hit for Netflix. In the lawsuit, Williams said the show’s popularity led to her becoming “the subject of thousands of such abusive messages” online.

Julia Garner stars as Anna Delvey/ Sorokin in Inventing Anna. Pic: Nicole Rivelli/Netflix
Image:
Garner as Delvey in Inventing Anna. Pic: Nicole Rivelli/Netflix

Netflix ‘running a conwoman’s PR’

In an article written when the show was launched, Williams said: “Netflix isn’t just putting out a fictional story. It’s effectively running a conwoman’s PR – and putting money in her pocket.”

Williams’ lawyer, Alexander Rufus-Isaacs, told E! News: “The reason why we had to file the case is because Netflix used Rachel’s real name and biographical details, and made her out to be a horrible person, which she is not.”

He added: “The devastating damage to her reputation could have been avoided if only Netflix had used a fictitious name and different details. Why didn’t they do this for her, when they did for so many other characters in the series?”

Mr Rufus-Isaacs suggested the reason for this was that “she had chosen to play for the other team, ie, HBO”.

According to Williams’ website, HBO and Lena Dunham had optioned her book My Friend Anna, but this option expired and the project is not in development.

The lawsuit seeks a jury trial, as well as unspecified damages and an injunction to have the alleged defamatory material involving Williams edited out of Inventing Anna.

Sky News has contacted Netflix and representatives for Sorokin for comment.

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