Vincent Parco, who says Anna Gristina hired him last fall to help her launch a dating service, wouldn't detail what information prosecutors sought from him. But he said he had "nothing to help or hurt" Gristina, whom prosecutors have accused of peddling prostitutes for 15 years and claiming to have law enforcement contacts.
Meanwhile, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press that a woman who worked for Gristina told prosecutors as far back as 2004 that Gristina was running an escort service, with an assistant who was married to a police sergeant. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation surrounding Gristina.
The Manhattan district attorney's office declined to comment on the case Friday. Gristina's lawyer didn't immediately return a call.
Gristina, a Scotland-born mother of four who keeps rescued pigs at her suburban home, was arrested last month in a case that has spawned weeks of titillation and speculation.
At least four other people also have been arrested during what prosecutors have described as a 5-year investigation. The others include a matchmaking recruiter accused of helping Gristina arrange trysts, two alleged prostitutes and an accused money-launderer.
But the focus has been on Gristina, who's jailed on $2 million bond. Although she has been charged with only a single low-level felony, prosecutors have said they believe she made millions of dollars over the years setting up sexual encounters for wealthy clients.
Indeed, the woman who worked for her told prosecutors in 2004 that Gristina was running elite escort services, claiming to specialize in catering to "CEOs, dignitaries and people in sensitive positions where discretion is paramount," the person familiar with the matter said.
While running the business out of an unprepossessing apartment in a walk-up building on East 78th Street on Manhattan's Upper East Side, Gristina housed call girls in an upscale furnished rental nearby, the person said, recounting the woman's account of working for Gristina. The women signed contracts saying they needed to "be well presented" and drug- and alcohol-free during "assignments," according to the person. Gristina would collect her share of the proceeds weekly, the person said.
Among her aides was the police sergeant's wife, who answered phone calls and acted as a dispatcher, the person said. The woman who spoke to prosecutors told them the sergeant knew Gristina well and was "always there," the person said.
No police officers have been implicated in the case thus far. One sergeant was ordered to give internal-affairs investigators his work log after someone reported he had been to the East 78th Street building, but officials determined he was there on valid police work.
A retired detective found himself in the spotlight after a photo of Gristina sitting on his lap appeared in the New York Post, but a person familiar with the case has said the detective wasn't a focus of it. That person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing inquiry.
According to Gristina's lawyers and advocates, she is a financially strapped former real estate agent who was trying to start a high-end online matchmaking service.
Parco said he first heard of her when he was working on the defense of another accused madam in about 2007 or 2008. He said all he was told then of Gristina was that she might be a useful witness for his client, and he ultimately couldn't contact her at the time.
Then, in September, she introduced herself to him at a networking event for a dating site and told him she wanted him to verify potential clients' backgrounds for a similar venture, Parco said. It didn't get off the ground before her arrest, but the two took steps including traveling to Florida to explore obtaining a prospective client list, he said.
Her arrest "is a shock," he said.
Get Eyewitness News Delivered