When it comes to the Clark Rockefeller case, it was Anna Sorokin, a.k.a. Anna Delvey, the subject of the Netflix documentary “Inventing Anna” who proved the experts wrong.
Back in 2013, court watchers and pontificators who followed the murder trial of Christian Gerhartsreiter believed Gerhartsreiter, a.k.a. Clark Rockefeller, would be the last great imposter. They theorized that the proliferation of information on the internet about any subject or person would be truthful, and therefore, anyone who sought cover under a made-up identity or life story would be immediately found out.
Boy, were they wrong.
Rockefeller's fantastic deception is the subject of “Becoming Clark Rockefeller.” The book is due to be published on Dec. 5 by WildBlue Press.
Like Sorokin, Gerhartsreiter was able to maintain a false identity for years by carefully crafting a persona and using his intelligence and charisma to manipulate others. Sorokin created fake bank statements and credit cards to support her lavish lifestyle, while Gerhartsreiter used his knowledge of business and finance to gain the trust of wealthy individuals.
Sorokin was ballsy enough to attempt sneaking into the annual Berkshire Hathaway meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, with the intent of meeting Warren Buffett. She even attended a private party where she met Bill Gates and Blade CEO Robert Wiesenthal. Throughout her criminal career, Anna moved in the same power, art, and fashion circles as the erstwhile Rockefeller had decades earlier. Gerhartsreiter was ballsy enough to say he had directed prime-time television, was the scion of royalty, and the poor relation of one of America's most storied families.
That's where the comparison ends. Sorokin was primarily motivated by a desire for wealth and status, while Gerhartsreiter seemed to enjoy the thrill of deception and the power that came with it. He was also a murderer.
BECOMING CLARK ROCKEFELLER: Murder, Love, Deception, and the Con Man Behind It All, coming December 5th, 2023, pieces together Gerhartsreiter's life from his youth in Bavaria, his immigration to the U.S. as a teenager, and his college years in Milwaukee.
The story follows Gerhartsreiter to San Marino, a wealthy Los Angeles enclave just minutes from the glitz and glamor of Hollywood. There, in 1984, with the Olympic Games in full swing, Gerhartsreiter, calling himself Christopher Chichester, the XIII baronet of Chichester, sets to ingraining himself into high society. Things take a turn when Chichester moves in with an elderly woman, her son John Sohus, and John's wife Linda. Within weeks, John, Linda, and Chichester would be gone.
Nearly a decade later, John's trisected skeleton turned up in the backyard of the home he once shared with his wife and Chichester. An international manhunt ensued, only to be derailed by the more prolific O.J. Simpson murder trial.
BECOMING CLARK ROCKEFELLER follows Gerhartsreiter to Greenwich, Connecticut, where he adopts a new persona and drives the John Sohus’ pickup truck before trying to sell it to an unsuspecting preacher's son. As detectives closed in, Gerhartsreiter disappeared again, morphing into Clark Rockefeller, idly rich art collector and bon vivant.
As Rockefeller, Gerhartsreiter married Sandra Boss, a consultant with McKinsey. The couple had a child, Reigh, and when marital bliss became marital hell for Boss, she turned to the internet only to discover her husband had no identity prior to 1995. They divorced. He kidnapped their child, only to be arrested and unmasked.
Like Sorokin, Gerhartsreiter as Rockefeller had made some famous friends like writer Walter Kirn, who would go on to write a book about his encounters with the serial imposter.
Overall, Anna Sorokin and Christian Gerhartsreiter are both fascinating examples of the human capacity for deception. And the capacity of gullible bystanders to be unwittingly duped. Their stories are a reminder that even in the age of information, it is still possible to create and maintain a false identity.
In 2019, Sorokin was sentenced to four to 12 years in prison after she was convicted of grand larceny and theft of services. She created fake personas, fake bank balance sheets, and fake credit cards to bolster a life of luxury in New York.
As for Gerhartsreiter? He's up at San Quentin doing 27 to life, painting, and ingratiating himself with fellow inmates.
Only BECOMING CLARK ROCKEFELLER tells the whole story.