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Inoculating Anna: ‘Fake Heiress’ Behind Popular Netflix Series Files Suit Claiming She Got COVID Because Immigration Lockup Denied Her a Booster

Anna Sorokin

Fake German heiress Anna Sorokin is led away after being sentenced in Manhattan Supreme Court on May 9, 2019, following her conviction on multiple counts of grand larceny and theft of services. (Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images)

Con artist Anna Sorokin has a new courtroom drama on the horizon, filing a federal lawsuit to obtain a COVID-19 booster in immigration lockup.

In a class action complaint filed with three other detainees, Sorokin claims that she tested positive for coronavirus behind bars in January, after staff at the Orange County Correctional Facility rejected multiple requests for a booster shot.

The so-called “fake heiress” played down her Russian-German origins with the pseudonym Anna Delvey when she duped the wealthy and powerful, leading to her grand larceny prosecution for stealing more than $275,000 from major financial institutions, banks, hotels, and acquaintances in the United States. She was convicted on May 9, 2019, following a trial that laid bare her years-long deceptions of the elite between 2013 and 2017.

The length, scale and ambition of Sorokin’s scheme attracted constant tabloid headlines and a viral New York Magazine profile by journalist Jessica Pressler, later optioned for a Netflix series “Inventing Anna.” The series boasted record viewership, if middling reviews, with one particularly scathing write-up slamming the show’s “quasi-feminist, girlboss-adjacent” pretensions.

Now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, Sorokin has been awaiting deportation to Germany after serving less than two years of her four to 12 year sentence, but she says her immigration detention has not been easy. Originally held inside the Bergen County Correctional Facility in New Jersey, she was transferred to a facility roughly 66 miles northwest of New York City.

“She has several medical conditions that make her vulnerable to serious illness or death from COVID-19, including a chronic kidney infection as well as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder,” the class action lawsuit states. “She is an otherwise qualified person with a disability under the Rehabilitation Act.”

Three other immigration detainees being held in facilities in Arizona and California—Miguel Angel Escalante, Kenet Jefet Hernandez Herrera, and Ramon Dominguez Gonzalez—are named as co-plaintiffs.  All four claim that their medical conditions put them at particular risk for COVID-19 infection.

“Plaintiffs are medically vulnerable people held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) at detention facilities while they await adjudication of their civil immigration cases,” the lawsuit states. “As COVID-19 continues to spread in ICE detention facilities, Plaintiffs fear for their health and safety. Since the emergence of the Omicron variant, COVID-19 has surged through ICE detention centers. In January 2022 alone, the number of COVID-19 cases in ICE detention facilities among detainees grew by over 800 percent.”

Escalante is HIV-positive. Hernandez Herra is a former smoker with mental health conditions. Dominguez Gonzalez says he still has breathing issues from his last bout COVID-19, which he says he got in immigration detention.

Sorokin says that her COVID infection early this year behind bars left her with “lingering effects including fatigue, coughing, brain fog and shortness of breath.”

“After leaving quarantine on January 29, 2022, Ms. Sorokin requested the booster again when she had a medical visit for a general check-up,” the lawsuit states. “Although a nurse told her that she would be seen by a doctor to address this, she never heard anything about a booster shot since then. She has not heard of any other detained people getting a booster shot in Orange County, and has not seen any information distributed about boosters. She feels especially frustrated that she contracted COVID-19 after Orange County failed to give her a booster shot upon her initial request, and she feels that the staff have left her and other detainees unprotected in the facility. Ms. Sorokin would like a booster shot as soon as she is medically eligible, as she is concerned about getting sick from COVID-19 if she contracts it again.”

Represented in her criminal trial by Todd Spodek—who is now retained by a juror whose alleged deception cast Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex trafficking conviction into turmoil—Sorokin has a new set of lawyers representing her civil suit, led by the ACLU’s Eunice H. Cho and Arthur B. Spitzer.

ICE did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

Read the lawsuit, below:

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."