A wedding was well underway at a five-star hotel when the bride walked down the aisle dressed in a puffy off-shoulder gown, gripping a bouquet in one hand and her father’s arm in the other.
But all was not as it seemed at the extravagant union that day in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital. The man she was tenderly interlocking arms with wasn’t actually her father—in fact, he had never even met her before that day.
The wedding was just another acting gig for him, a bit player who often took minor television roles. Participating with him in the elaborate show were 300 “friends” and “relatives” the bride had recruited to be part of her romantic milestone. After that lavish day, the bride would continue to reach out to the same actors, asking them to meet with her new husband’s family on special occasions to keep the ruse going.
It would be four years before the bride’s fabricated identity began to unravel. In September, the actor who played her father admitted to local media that he was not personally related to her. “I haven't spoken to the bride since the wedding, so I'm not participating in the scams,” he said. “The fees for playing the dad at that wedding was barely enough for gas for my motorbike.”
The events company employing the actors declined to speak with VICE World News, but confirmed that the bride had used their services for the wedding.
But back in 2018, when the wedding was held, no one had thought to cast doubts on Tina Duong, the beautiful young woman who loved luxury clothing and showered people with exorbitant gifts. Everyone was sure she came from money, even if they weren’t sure where that money came from.
Tina told some of her new acquaintances her father was a government official; other times, she said he was a businessman. But no matter her cover story, few doubted her wealth. Tina’s spending habits showed a flippant attitude towards money—from candid photos at home with her branded bags, to the generous meals she would buy for the staff at her favorite hair salon, and the sleek silver Rolls Royce sitting in front of her wedding venue in 2018.
But in recent months, the truth has surfaced: Tina Duong’s real name is Ninh Thi Van Anh, a 27-year-old from the poor and remote Bac Giang province in northeastern Vietnam. She has since become known to most of the country as the Vietnamese Anna Delvey—the anti-hero of a New York Magazine exposé, and later the Netflix series Inventing Anna, who fooled her way into the upper echelons of New York City posing as a German heiress from 2013 to 2017.
Like Delvey, Tina would splash out on expensive gifts for those around her, creating an image of effortless wealth before asking them for bigger favors, often involving money. After years of grifting, this heiress persona has been upended by a series of fraud allegations by victims, ranging from fake business partnerships to outright theft and love scams. With each sensational new detail published in the media, Tina has captured national attention in an unprecedented way.
“In Vietnam we have all kinds of frauds happening,” Viet Dung Trinh, the program director at VinUniversity’s College of Business and Management in Hanoi and a researcher of luxury goods, told VICE World News. “But [Tina has gone] to an extent that nobody has seen before.”
It was only in September that the extent of Tina’s deceit was thrust into national attention. In a Facebook post, Nha Le, a cosmetic clinic owner and Tina's former sister-in-law, exposed Tina’s use of fake relatives at the extravagant 2018 wedding, adding that she had borrowed a total of 17 billion dong ($723,000) from the family.
Following this revelation, resourceful netizens uncovered that Tina had married another man in Da Lat, southern Vietnam, in March 2021. According to photos shared widely on social media, the intimate ceremony took place in the middle of a forest, the venue adorned with string lights and flowers. Tina walked down the aisle with her new groom—this time dressed in a simple white lace dress and cowboy boots—surrounded by rows of guests.
She would vanish just weeks after the fairytale wedding, taking some 100 million dong ($4,200) from her husband, one of the wedding guests told local media.
In her Facebook post, Nha Le also claimed to have gathered more than 40 of Tina’s victims, who had lost an estimated combined total of 100 billion dong ($4.3 million)—though she did not disclose their identities or share how she calculated this sum.
But they are not alone. Adding to the growing chorus of allegations against the fake heiress is Nguyen Huy Nhut, who, along with 14 other alleged victims, is also filing a police complaint against Tina for fraud.
38-year-old Nhut met Tina during a business trip in February last year, where she told him that she was organizing a top-secret meeting for her father, a senior intelligence official. When that meeting location was eventually “compromised” and plans fell through, Tina borrowed 400 million dong ($17,000) from Nhut to pay for the canceled event.
Around the same time, Nhut was approached online by a man claiming to be Tina’s father, who also asked him for money. By the time Nhut found out that he was a figment of Tina’s imagination, he’d already handed over a total of 1.5 billion dong ($63,800)—a sum that Tina has since admitted to when interviewed by police.
But that’s not all. During police investigations in October, Tina also admitted to “abusing trust and appropriating property” after selling a self-driving car she rented in Ho Chi Minh City. She drove it 1,500 kilometers from her home in southern Vietnam to Ninh Binh in the north, a 26-hour journey, and sold it to a buyer for 450 million dong ($19,100), providing them with a fake registration she ordered online.
Tina was released on bail in October, local media reported. Neither Nhut nor the local police immediately responded to VICE World News’ requests for comment. Nha Le and her husband did not respond to multiple requests for comment, while VICE World News was unable to reach Tina.
“I believe that any man will fall for this ruse. They will feel sorry for her before falling for her.”
But despite being a seasoned grifter, Tina hasn’t always been successful in winning the hearts—and wallets—of the men she has set her eyes on. Last year, another one of her ex-lovers, Khiem Nguyen (who goes by the nickname Kalim), detailed their turbulent relationship in a Facebook post, hoping to warn others against falling for Tina’s scams.
Kalim told VICE World News that despite being initially struck by Tina’s attractive demeanor, he soon started having reservations. When the pair met in August last year, Tina was posing as the terminally ill daughter of a tycoon working for the Canadian government.
“She was a girl with a really cute, kind voice. She also appeared to be understanding,” said Kalim, a coffee shop owner in Ho Chi Minh City. “I believe that any man will fall for this ruse. They will feel sorry for her before falling for her.”
As the pair embarked on a whirlwind romance, Kalim couldn’t shake off a strange apprehension about his new girlfriend. Then, just two weeks into dating, she was suddenly “kidnapped,” sending Kalim into a bewildered panic.
Just as suddenly, she was “rescued.” That’s when Tina explained that her family often faced threats—even random abductions—because of their wealth. But instead of enthralling him, Tina’s dramatic tales only heightened Kalim’s suspicions.
“When she kept asking for money or shopping fees, I began to distrust her story,” said Kalim, who broke up with Tina after the staged kidnapping. Tina did not take the breakup well, bombarding Kalim with messages, phone calls, and eventually, suicide threats. By the time the dust settled on their messy month-long relationship, Kalim had given her nearly 90 million dong ($3,800), mostly to feed her shopping habits.
But unlike her other victims whom she would fleece and leave, Tina had apparently fallen in love this time.
“I want to tell this whole society that I love you. Kalim is the last person this Tina loves,” Tina wrote in September on her Facebook page, sharing a rare moment of vulnerability.
“I just want you to think I'm good, I'm perfect. I'm rich, I'm constantly creating all sorts of covers while living with you. Only my love is real.”
According to Tina, she had been secretly watching Kalim on social media for a year before they officially met, enamored with the carefree image he portrayed online but too shy to make the first move. When she finally reached out to him, she fell back on the fake heiress identity she knew would impress.
“I wasn't properly loved as a child, so as an adult I tend to make a desperate attempt to be loved,” she wrote after their breakup. “I am always driven by emotional hunger, I search for love everywhere but I fail.”
“Since my daughter was exposed online, I quit my job at the restaurant because of shame… Every day, we sit and sew hats so we don't think too much.”
Growing up in the rural Dao My commune in northeastern Vietnam, Tina struggled with poverty and teenage angst after her parents’ divorce. Sometimes, her mother told the local media, she would run away from home, only to be found by her family holed up in a temple or an abandoned house. Tina dropped out of school when she was just 14, leaving to work in the city.
While well aware of her erratic tendencies, it was only when Tina’s fake identity publicly fell apart that her family find out about her years of deceit.
“Since my daughter was exposed online, I quit my job at the restaurant because of shame,” her mother told local reporters when they visited her run-down, two-storey home.
The 47-year-old sits sewing hats in her sparsely furnished living room—photos of her children lovingly hung on the wall, some featuring Tina as a little girl.
“Every day, we sit and sew hats so we don't think too much,” she said.
The circumstances around Tina’s upbringing have garnered sympathy from some, such as Vu The Dung, a Youtuber who has been posting videos about her fall to his 90,000 subscribers. He believes she’s not the calculating fraudster she’s being made out to be.
“For me, Tina isn’t someone who’s very smart and has a very big plan to scam a lot of people. I don’t think so,” Dung told VICE World News. “She lied to her boyfriends… I’m not saying it’s a good thing to do. But I’m saying we can easily understand the situation.”
Zooming out from childhood hardship, Trinh the academic sees the entire saga as “a lesson to be learned” about the rise of materialism in Vietnam.
Free market reforms in the 1980s opened up Vietnam’s socialist economy, transforming the country into one of the world's fastest-growing economies. This progress has been accompanied by a swift rise in incomes and consumerism, and in 2017 the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Ngoc Thien spoke out against the spread of “selfishness, materialism and heartlessness” as part of a wider “ethical downfall” in Vietnam.
Brandishing the hottest luxury items and with her flamboyant spendthrift habits, Tina exploited these shifting attitudes around wealth and status in Vietnam.
“For many people, they believe that in order to be successful, you have to have a certain look. You have to have a certain style,” said Trinh. “Tina played the game very well. She [ticked] all the necessary checkboxes for her story to be more believable.”
According to Nha Le, she has been approached by filmmakers interested in introducing “Vietnamese Anna Delvey” to the big screen—an idea she’d entertain she said during a live stream, as she pondered splitting the film’s revenue among Tina’s victims.
The anti-hero, for her part, appears to have tried setting out on her own path to redemption. In September, faced with mounting allegations of fraud, Tina announced on social media that she was embarking on a journey to “find her true identity again.”
“I hope everyone forgives and supports me so I may soon become a good person, live honestly, and make up for all of my faults!” she wrote. “Mr. Kalim will have the remainder of my heart.”
But Kalim doesn’t buy any of her lovelorn confessions, having been scarred by his encounter with the serial fraudster. Like Tina’s other ex-lovers, he is still struggling to recover from the stinging betrayal.
“I met and spoke with other victims. I can easily empathize with their feelings after being duped by love,” Kalim said. “They will be in a condition that is worse than death. They'll keep blaming and doubting themselves.”
“I feel that a love fraud is worse than killing the victims.”