gristina Credit: Anna Gristina, 44, of Monroe, N.Y., at hearing in Manhattan Supreme Court on March 6./Newsday

An upstate mom accused of moonlighting as a millionaire madam and running an Upper East Side prostitution ring couldn't afford the $2 million bail Tuesday, with prosecutors arguing she could skip town.

Anna Gristina, 44, of Monroe, has "certain high-wealth individuals as friends and associates who have an interest in not having this case move forward," Manhattan Asst. District Attorney Charles Linehan said in State Supreme Court. "They would be able to help her flee."

Gristina has been detained on Rikers Island since Feb. 23 on a charge of allegedly promoting prostitution for the past 15 years. The case made headlines Tuesday after word leaked that she had bragged on wiretapped calls of having law enforcement contacts. Those insiders would allegedly keep her apprised of investigations during the Eliot Spitzer scandal and would warn her if raids or arrests were imminent.

It was not immediately clear Tuesday who her alleged clients were, but reports said the men were wealthy and influential.

The mother of four tried to hide her face from cameras during a 20-minute hearing as her lawyer argued that a woman with no record who keeps rescue animals at her Orange County home deserved lower bail.

But prosecutors said Gristina – a British citizen with a U.S. green card and a home in Canada – could jump bail.

Outside, defense lawyer Peter Gleason said his client was in the real estate business and had been trying to develop a dating website when she was arrested last month. He claimed that the high bail reflected a double standard for women accused of involvement in prostitution.

“There is a hypocrisy in this country,” Gleason said.

Prosecutors said they had 50 to 100 hours of video and audio recordings in the case, including surveillance of encounters at the apartment on East 78th Street where prostitutes met with clients. One cooperating witness, a prostitute, allegedly told investigators that she witnessed an encounter involving a minor.

Gleason denounced that charge. “I would not be standing here if I thought any child were involved,” he told reporters. “The facts will come out that that is not the case. There are no underage girls involved.”

Prosecutors said Gristina was helped by a lawyer who laundered money for her, and she was arrested on Feb. 22 after meeting with a Morgan Stanley banker who was a “close friend” that she was soliciting to invest in her planned dating site.

They described the site as “a business venture that involves matching up male clients with female prostitutes.”


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