British woman Scot Anna Gristina 'ran US vice ring'

 

A British-born woman has been accused of running a multi-million pound prostitution ring in New York.

But lawyers for Scot Anna Gristina say she is merely a suburban mother who was building an online dating service.

Prosecutors insisted in court Gristina., who has been jailed after being unable to stand bail, was an arrogant, wealthy madam who boasted of ties to law enforcement and stashed cash to flee if authorities tried to close in on her.

"A caring mother of four has been slapped with a $2 million bond" one of her lawyers, Peter Gleason, said after a judge refused to lower the bail.

Bespectacled, 44-year-old Gristina looked glum and tried to turn away from the news cameras in court for her brief appearance. She was arrested on February 22, but news of the case broke only on Monday. She has pleaded not guilty.

A legal US resident, originally from the Highlands, Gristina maintains a home for rescued animals, said another of her lawyers, Richard Siracusa. She has never been in legal trouble before and has surrendered her passport, he said, but has a bail that would denote "a heinous criminal."

But state Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan said "the risk of flight seems significant" in Gristina's case.

Prosecutors say Gristina was heard during a five-year investigation saying she had made millions of dollars over about 15 years of arranging trysts. She has wealthy clients and friends who "have an interest in not having this case go forward" and could help her run, they said. She also was heard saying she would flee if she heard trouble was coming, and evidence suggests she has money set aside for just that purpose, Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Charles Linehan told the judge.

Gristina "essentially assured anyone who asked that she has connections in law enforcement who will let her know if anything is going to come down, in terms of a criminal indictment," he said.

When arrested in Manhattan last month, she was with a friend and Morgan Stanley banker, having been to his office for a meeting to try to raise money to finance what prosecutors believe may be an online prostitution business. The investment bank declined to comment.

But Mr Gleason said Gristina was setting up a legal dating business, hoping to rival online titan Match.com. Private investigator Vincent Parco said Gristina had hired him because she wanted to make sure potential members did not have criminal backgrounds.

"She has some legitimate business interests ... nothing to do with the sex trade," he said.

According to prosecutors, Gristina often used an apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side as a setting for the sexual encounters she arranged, some of them involving minors. But Mr Gleason said the defence investigation had found no sign that underage girls were enmeshed in any of the alleged activities.

He called the case a sign of "hypocrisy" in how society treats women accused of involvement in prostitution, compared to alleged male patrons.

Prosecutors have said they believe the building belongs to a lawyer who helped Gristina set up her business and launder money.

Gristina lives on a 12-acre property in Monroe, about 50 miles from New York.

Her husband, Kelvin Gorr, told the Daily News of New York that he was "heartbroken" about the case.

"We are just a great family ... and my wife means everything to me," Mr Gorr, who has been married to Gristina for 10 years, said.

Gristina is due back in court May 3. If convicted, she could face up to seven years in prison.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£26000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is Europe's indust...

Recruitment Genius: Engineering Technician

£17020 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Aerospace company is looki...

Recruitment Genius: Company Bookkeeper

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Bookkeeper is required to joi...

Recruitment Genius: Site Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to growth this company is seeking two Site...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen