The secret of the Soccer Mom Madam’s long success seems to have had little or nothing to do with paying off cops.
Not that any whorehouse is actually good, but at this bordello on East 78th Street in Manhattan, the ladies were beautiful and drug-free, and made so much money they did not have to steal. Gristina did not even accept credit cards, much less run up fake charges.
“It’s a legitimate business," says a Manhattan attorney who has represented several of Gristina’s alleged hookers. “It’s just illegal.”
“How do you think she stayed in business for 15 years?" the attorney adds. "She gave good product. She gave good service.”
In those terms, 44-year-old Gristina's two lives are not as completely double as they may seem. Gristina appears to have run her whorehouse much as you might expect of a soccer mom if a soccer mom were ever to do such a thing.
And, Gristina may have enjoyed a reward beyond her supposed $10 million in profits from taking a 40 percent cut of what her hookers earned. She is said to have gone into the madam business just about the time her second husband, Dario Gristina, reportedly was arrested for patronizing a prostitute. Maybe Anna Gristina decided she was not going to be just another suburban mother who sat home while her husband was off paying a hooker for what he got from his wife for nothing. Maybe she just figured she would turn it all around to make a fortune for herself and a happy new life with husband number three.
The third husband, Kelvin Gorr, who last hit the newspapers as a teen after he chased down a knife-wielding man who tried to rape his mother in 1991, has not disputed that his wife is a madam. He has adamantly denied the one truly damning allegation against her, a contention by the New York District Attorney’s office that she had involved underage girls.
Anna Gristina might never have been arrested and might very well still be living the life of a madam mother of four had she not been overheard on a wiretap boasting that she had police protection. The result was that the Manhattan District Attorney’s Official Corruption Unit launched a five-year investigation. It is entirely possible that the case went on for so long for the very reason that there were no crooked cops to catch.
The NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau has been questioning a uniformed sergeant who was repeatedly seen by a neighbor outside the building in question. But it seems he may have been there for legitimate reasons unrelated to the brothel on the second floor. A senior NYPD official as well as the attorney for the hookers suggest that Gristina simply had been engaging in a little false braggadocio. The attorney scoffs at the idea that Gristina avoided arrest for so many years by bribing the police.
“Those days are long gone,” the attorney says.
Whether or not Gristina’s boasts have substance, one indisputable truth about modern prostitution in New York is that the surest way to get busted is to say you are paying the cops not to bust you. The self-styled “King Pimp,” Jason Itzler, discovered that after he boasted to a gossip reporter that he did not have to worry about the cops. The ensuing investigation led to him pleading guilty to prostitution charges in 2006.
Gristina was not just exaggerating when she bragged online to former schoolmates about becoming a CEO and building an empire. She is said to have acquired a partner in London and to have arranged for her hookers to jet off as far away as Asia. She is said to have enlisted a Morgan Stanley broker named David Walker to help her launch an online service.
Gristina was with Walker at Madison Avenue and E. 53rd Street in Manhattan at 11 a.m. on February 22, when the investigators finally made the arrest. Walker has not been arrested or charged with any crime. Nor were any of Gristina’s many johns, though in requesting high bail, the prosecutor told the judge, “There are certain high-wealth individuals, friends and business associates who have an interest in not having this case go forward and would help her flee.”
As computed by the attorney for several of Gristina’s alleged hookers, some of those high-wealth individuals had cause to consider the best little whorehouse in New York to be an upscale cheater’s bargain, particularly those who enjoyed the house discount, which cut the cost of a session from $2,000 to $800.
“It’s cheaper than having a mistress,” the attorney says. “Oh, a lot cheaper. Any kind of decent mistress is going to cost you four or five grand a month. Sometimes, it’s three, but then there’s the extras: clothes, [college] tuition. It’s the extras that kill you.”
No doubt a good number of Gristina's customers are now sweating that they might end up collared, like her second husband was briefly more than a decade ago. They may seek comfort in reminding themselves that Eliot Spitzer escaped arrest while the procurers were busted. Any corrupt cops who actually do figure in the Gristina case can find solace only in the hope she will not identify them.
The chances of Gristina naming names certainly do not decrease as she sits in jail in lieu of $1 million cash bail or $2 million bond on felony charges of promoting prostitution, which carry a term of up to seven years. She is due back in court on May 3.
If the woman now being called the Soccer Mom Madam does turn over her big black book, any johns who get busted for patronizing a prostitute can always look to her second husband for inspiration. Dario Gristina is now running for the New York State Assembly as a conservative Republican.