The suburban mother of four who prosecutors allege made millions of dollars running a high-end Manhattan prostitution ring blasted the district attorney's office for "squeezing" her to give up her clients and told The New York Post in a jailhouse interview that she'd sooner bite off her tongue.
Gristina, 44, remains jailed on $2 million bond at Rikers Island after pleading not guilty to promoting prostitution, a low-level felony. Her lawyers say she was working on building an online dating service and has been hit with wrongful and unfair allegations.
Prosecutors say Gristina was heard during a five-year investigation saying she'd made millions as an Upper East Side madam and claimed to have law enforcement connections who would tip her off if she was about to get in trouble.
Gristina told the Post that prosecutors grilled her for hours regarding her investors and clientele, interrogating her specifically about a list of 10 city power players they thrust in her direction. The alleged madam told the Post she knew some of the people on that list, but refused to say anything about them -- and prosecutors' frustration led her to believe she was just a means to an end in their probe.
"It's not about me; it's bigger then me," Gristina told the Post. "They're trying to sweat me out. They're clearly trying to break me."
Prosecutors have said that when she was arrested Feb. 22 on a midtown Manhattan street she had just come from a meeting at a friend's Morgan Stanley office. She was trying to raise money for a new venture, which authorities believed might be an online prostitution business, Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Charles Linehan told a judge on Feb. 23.
Prosecutors have said some of the trysts Gristina arranged involved minors, though Linehan told a judge last month he didn't know how old they were.
Gristina's attorney, Peter J. Gleason, has stringently denied she had any dealings with underage girls. He said she was seeking investors so she could set up an online matchmaking service for upscale clients.
Gristina, a legal U.S. resident originally from the Scottish Highlands, lives on a 12-acre property in Monroe. She rescues animals, helping abandoned pet pigs find new homes, and is a former real estate broker, according to her lawyers and their investigator.
She told the Post that contrary to prosecutors' allegations that she made millions as a madam, she and her family lead a simple life at their upstate home.
"I've been struggling to keep my daughter in college to pay the tuition," Gristina told the paper. "Our utilities are always on the verge of being shut off. I'll show you the bills."
Gristina is due back in court on May 3. If convicted, she could face up to seven years in prison.
Police and the Manhattan district attorney's office declined to comment on the case surrounding Gristina and a not-yet-arrested co-defendant, identified in news reports as Jaynie Baker.
Prosecutors say Baker was Gristina's co-madam, but Gristina told the Post she's a professional matchmaker and is helping her with her online service. Gristina also told the Post Baker is not on the run, as authorities say, but is vacationing with her sister as she does yearly at this time and only recently learned police were looking for her.
"I feel bad for Jaynie, because she's not involved in anything, and she did nothing wrong," Gristina told the Post.
Baker was until recently listed as the recruiting director for VIP Life, a high-end matchmaking service.
No phone number could be found for Baker, and an email sent to her through a social networking website was not returned.