UK
07/03/2012 09:15 GMT

British Mother Anna Gristina Accused Of Running Multi-Million Pound Prostitution Ring In New York

Scottish woman Anna Gristina has been accused of running a multi-million-pound prostitution ring in New York.

The 44-year-old mother-of-four who is originally from Edinburgh, was arrested on 22 February and could face up to seven years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors contend she is a madam who boasted of ties to law enforcement and stashed cash to flee if authorities tried to close in on her.

They claim Gristina used a luxury apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side as a setting for the sexual encounters she arranged, some of them involving under-age girls.

Prosecutors claim Gristina was heard during a five-year investigation saying she had made millions of dollars over about 15 years of arranging trysts.

Her bail has set at one million US dollars (£636,000) cash or two million US dollars (£1.27 million) bond.

Although the bail fee was likened by her defence team as suitable only for "a heinous criminal", the argument was made that she has wealthy clients and friends who "have an interest in not having this case go forward" and would therefore help her run.

Gristina was described quite differently by her defence, who say she is a dedicated suburban mother, an animal rescuer and a former real estate broker who was trying to build an online dating service, hoping to rival Match.com.

She has pleaded not guilty to a single charge of promoting prostitution and is being held at Rikers Island jail.

Reports say the bespectacled Scot looked glum and tried to turn away from the news cameras for a brief appearance at court in Manhattan yesterday.

A legal US resident, Gristina maintains a home for rescued animals.

One of her lawyers, Richard Siracusa, said she has never been in legal trouble before and has surrendered her passport.

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

Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Charles Linehan told the judge yesterday evidence suggested she has money set aside to flee.

He said: "She 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."

When arrested in Manhattan 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, Mr Linehan said at her arraignment last month. The investment bank declined to comment.

Mr Gleason said the defence investigation had found no sign of this.

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

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

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

He said: "We are just a great family... and my wife means everything to me."

Gristina is due back in court on May 3.