Briton accused of prostitution ring
A Scottish woman has been accused of running a multimillion-pound prostitution ring in New York.
Anna Gristina, a 44-year-old mother of four who is originally from Edinburgh, was arrested on February 22 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. But her defence team say she is the target of an unfairly sensationalised case.
Gristina's lawyers described her as a dedicated suburban mother, an animal rescuer and a former real estate broker who was trying to build an online dating service. A legal US resident, Gristina maintains a home for rescued animals.
She has pleaded not guilty to a single charge of promoting prostitution and is being held at Rikers Island jail, with bail set at one million US dollars (£636,000) cash or two million US dollars (£1.27 million) bond.
Reports say the bespectacled Scot looked glum and tried to turn away from the news cameras for a brief appearance at court in Manhattan.
One of her lawyers, Richard Siracusa, said she has never been in legal trouble before and has surrendered her passport. He said the bail fee denotes "a heinous criminal". But state Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan said "the risk of flight seems significant" in Gristina's case.
Prosecutors claim Gristina was heard during a five-year investigation saying she had made millions of dollars over about 15 years of arranging trysts. They also said she has wealthy clients and friends who "have an interest in not having this case go forward" and could help her run.
Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Charles Linehan told the judge 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." Gristina is due back in court on May 3.