She posed as a German heiress planning to lease for her own foundation a Manhattan building for a visual-arts center dedicated to contemporary art, which would also house a lounge, bar, art galleries, studio space, restaurants, and a members-only club.
She met fashionable young New York professionals at chic restaurants and bars where, Ooops! her phone failed to work when trying to charge the check, and she hadn’t bothered carrying a credit card. So her new friends obliging picked up the tab this time.
She took the dazzled Rachel DeLoache Williams, who worked at Vanity Fair, on a little outing to a [Â£5,485 a night] villa she’d booked at Marrakech. But it did not work quite the way Rachel was expecting.
On the morning we were supposed to leave, she asked for my help booking the flights because there was a problem with her card. I didnâ€™t think too much of it; this was just the way she was: disorganised. Iâ€™d seen her book things last minute so many times and I knew she would reimburse me.
From there, it was a trickle effect. At the airport, Anna â€˜accidentallyâ€™ checked her wallet, which meant I had to pay for everyoneâ€™s dinner (she brought a photographer and her personal trainer, too). Her card still wasnâ€™t working for the rest of the trip, so I began adding things to a tab (dinners, kaftans). I had presumed our villa was pre-paid, but at some point the hotel manager began asking to speak with Anna.
The penny drops
On the third day of the trip, I walked into our villa and the hotel managers were standing in the doorway. Anna was sitting with her phone on the table in front of her, like she was waiting for something. A call, apparently. One of the managers turned to me and asked if I had a credit card. They were firm. I looked to Anna and she said â€˜use it for nowâ€™. My stomach sank. It would have felt weirdly ungrateful to show my annoyance, so I gave it to them. I was told the charge was only temporary â€“ it wasnâ€™t â€“ and I left the next morning, a day before she did.
This is when everything started to unravel. Every day I asked her for the money back and every day she promised it would arrive. I thought she was just doing a characteristically bad job of following through with logistical things. It was $62,000 [about Â£48,800] in total.
This went on for an excruciatingly long time â€“ two months â€“ and my life started falling apart. I was having panic attacks constantly, not sleeping. It took me a strikingly long time to even ask myself the question: what if she never pays you back? Because that would mean Iâ€™d have to look at how that would impact my life, and I knew if I did that, I wouldâ€™ve lost it. I already wasnâ€™t saving any money â€“ New York is expensive, and I was barely breaking even â€“ so to be set back 60-something thousand dollars? It felt like, â€˜I am never going to get out of this hole. This is where it ends for me. Iâ€™m not going to get to buy a house, Iâ€™m not going to get to be a real adult, Iâ€™m never going to have kids.â€™
More book excerpts at Crime Reads.
But, cheer up, Rachel wrote up the story of her misfortunes as a book, My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress, and she will probably come out ahead in the end.