Accused NYC Madam Was Building Online Dating Service: Defense Lawyer

Anna Gristina, 44, was in court Tuesday. Her lawyer claimed she was building an online dating service.

A lawyer for a suburban mother of four charged with running a multimillion-dollar prostitution ring in Manhattan says she was working on building an online dating service.

Anna Gristina, of Monroe, was briefly in court Tuesday in her prostitution case. She has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors say the 44-year-old Gristina said she made millions of dollars from arranging trysts and claimed she had law-enforcement connections who'd let her know if charges loomed. Police have declined to comment.

But defense lawyer Peter Gleason said after court that Gristina was "a loving, caring mother" who was setting up a legitimate dating business.

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

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

Gristina is being held on $2 million bond.

A co-defendant has yet to be arrested and hasn't been identified.

A source familiar with the case tells NBC New York law-enforcement officials are trying to get the alleged madam to cooperate with them in order to bring charges against her clients.

The Scottish-born Gristina said she'd made millions of dollars during about 15 years of arranging trysts, many of them at an apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side, Assistant District Attorney Charles Linehan told a judge on Feb. 23.

During hundreds of hours of surveillance, Gristina was heard saying that "she has connections in law enforcement who are poised to help her out, to let her know if there is trouble on the front that she needs to be concerned about," Linehan said, according to the transcript.

Particularly around the time a federal investigation of an apparently unrelated escort service spurred former Gov. Eliot Spitzer's 2008 resignation, Gristina talked about "how she had connections in law enforcement who will let her know if there was anything imminent coming down the line," Linehan said, according to the transcript.

Spitzer, a Democrat, gave up his post after he was publicly identified as a customer who had been called Client 9 in the federal case surrounding the Emperors Club VIP call-girl ring. Prosecutors ultimately declined to file criminal charges against him.

If convicted, Gristina could face up to seven years in prison.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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