The Brothel Next Door

The Brothel Next Door March 6, 2012

So, last night there were news trucks on my block as I arrived home. Turns out that a few doors down a woman was running a brothel. I had no idea.

MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — A mother of four made millions running an Upper East Side brothel and is now sitting in Rikers Island jail on a $2 million bond after a five-year investigation by the DA’s public corruption unit, according to stunning court documents obtained by

Anna Gristina, 44, was indicted on Feb. 22 by a Manhattan grand jury on a single charge of promoting prostitution and was arrested while meeting with a Morgan Stanley banker who she’d been trying to convince to help her expand her empire online, according to court documents.

Gristina, who prosecutors claim to have on tape admitting she made millions in 15 years as a madam, was hit with the hefty bail after the DA’s office claimed that her network of wealthy male clients and associates, combined with a home in Canada and British passport, made her a flight risk.

At her Feb. 23 arraignment in front of Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, prosecutors said the public corruption unit had nearly a hundred hours of audio and video surveillance that showed Gristina had been providing prostitutes — including some who were underage — to a slew of powerful men out of an apartment on East 78th Street, according to a transcript.

Prosecutors said the alleged madam had even bragged during the Eliot Spitzer investigation that she had a network of law enforcement sources poised to tip her off if her business was being watched, according to the documents.
The rest of the details and a picture of the building here.

When I left for work at 6:40am, the news trucks were there—seemingly having stayed overnight on a stakeout. It looked like one guy was stretched out vertically sleeping in one of the trucks. Talk about uncomfortable and extreme. I asked the beautiful reporter on the street which building it was and she briefly interviewed me. I distinctly remember there being several occasions where I’d see couples making out outside the door she pointed out. I always thought they just looked really in love. It was always beautiful women. I never suspected anything. And, who knows, maybe I just saw actual couples who live in that building too! But that’s all I had to tell the reporter. If a clip of me makes the news that would be it.

The reporter was funny though, her questions were gossipy like “Did you ever imagine this could happen in this neighborhood?” and “Can you believe the scale of it, they were said to be making millions of dollars?” And I just shrugged. This is Manhattan. What was I supposed to say: “I’m shocked! To think that in our little town!” or “On this quiet little street?” I mean, it’s surprising that it was just a couple doors over from my apartment building but I was much more surprised when they described her as a soccer mom. They say the woman who ran the brothel down the street from me on the Upper East Side was also a “soccer mom”. I find it much more surprising that I was living near a “soccer mom” than a madam here on the Upper East Side. So anyway all I could think during the reporters questions (but none of which I managed to blurt out) was:  There are a lot of businesses here, so it’s not like some random residential street. This is a couple avenues over from the wealthiest parts of America, there’s got to be brothels somewhere. Prostitution should not even be illegal, but regulated to make sure the sex workers are of age, are capable of freely consenting and refusing, and are required to enforce strict health protections for themselves and their clients. And I hoped that in this case everyone was legal, no one was a sex slave, and that the women working there are safe and won’t have their lives ruined over this.

But then it was upsetting to learn eventually that there were some underage girls there. So this went beyond prostitution to clear rape and exploitation. So now I hope even more that the women and girls have not already had their lives severely damaged by this and I hope the unscrupulous madam and the powerful male clientele are duly punished. Think the men actually will be? Apparently there is nearly 100 hours of surveillance audio and videotape.

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