Retired police officer linked to accused madam

March 9, 2012 5:18:21 PM PST
A suburban woman charged with running a big-money Manhattan brothel is due back in court next week for a judge to look into her finances, and a retired police detective who once helped prosecutors build cases emerged Friday as the latest of her well-connected contacts.

Anna Gristina has had a court-appointed lawyer so far. But at a court date Monday, a judge plans to explore whether the accused leader of a multimillion-dollar prostitution business actually has the money to pay for her own attorney.

Meanwhile, former detective Sylvan "Sly" Francis found himself in the spotlight Friday, after a photo of Gristina sitting on his lap appeared in the New York Post.

Manhattan prosecutors have said Gristina was heard trumpeting that she had ties to law enforcement, and the five-year-long investigation was conducted by prosecutors who specialize in probing possible crimes involving police.

But Francis isn't a focus of the investigation, a person familiar with the case said Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing inquiry.

Nor is Francis shy about his ties to the woman accused of operating a prostitution ring over 15 years. After the picture appeared alongside a jail interview with Gristina in Friday's Post, Francis posted a link to it on his Facebook page.

"Nice photo of me from back in the day," he wrote.

A Facebook message and a message left at a possible home number for him weren't immediately returned.

Francis retired from the New York Police Department in 2002, after 17 years on the force. He spent about 10 of those years as part of a team of detectives assigned to the Manhattan district attorney's office, which is prosecuting Gristina. The police detectives don't work on every case; the office also has its own investigators.

A district attorney's office spokeswoman declined to comment on the case Friday, and Gristina's lawyers didn't immediately return calls.

Francis isn't the first person from a police background whose name has surfaced in the case. A current officer, Sgt. Richard Wall, has been ordered to give internal affairs investigators his work log for the past five years after someone reported he had been to the Upper East Side apartment building where prosecutors say Gristina arranged trysts. Wall's lawyer has said the sergeant has no involvement with Gristina or the allegations.

Neither Francis nor Wall has been charged in the case.

The Scottish-born Gristina, 44, has pleaded not guilty to promoting prostitution and is being held on $2 million bond. The mother of four, former real estate broker and animal rescuer, who keeps pigs at her home in suburban Monroe, N.Y., says she was starting an above-board dating service.

Prosecutors grilled her about her alleged prostitution business and showed her a list of 10 high-profile men, demanding she name her alleged clients, she told the Post in an interview from the Rikers Island jail complex.

"I'd bite my tongue off before I'd tell them anything," she said in her first public comments since her Feb. 22 arrest.

She said she recognized about half of the names on the list, but those men were friends and business associates.

"The ones I knew were people I've known for a long time who are in politics, investing and real estate," she said.

Gristina told the newspaper she indeed has made millions - but "for other people," helping friends with real-estate and other ventures.

"If I'm such a big, high-profile madam, making all this money, and they had to investigate me for five years, why did they arrest me on a single promoting-prostitution charge - and only after I refused to talk to them?" Gristina said.

She acknowledged boasting in phone calls about knowing people in high places, including police officers, FBI agents and politicians. But, she said, she was being "like a politician. You say things to make yourself sound better."

Among her contacts, she said, is Morgan Stanley financial adviser David S. Walker, who was put on leave from his job at the financial giant this week after he was identified as having had a business meeting with Gristina in his office shortly before she was arrested.

The get-together was to discuss a "totally legitimate" online matching service for wealthy men and women, she said.

Walker hasn't been charged with any crime. He hasn't returned messages left at his home and office.

Gristina does have a co-defendant in the case: Jaynie Baker, who Gristina said was working for her as a matchmaker. Baker hasn't been arrested, and efforts to reach her have been unsuccessful.

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