Anna Gristina, 44, has denied allegations she supplied rich clients with women and under-age girls.
Gristina, originally from Kirkliston, is said to have made a fortune from a brothel she ran from a Manhattan flat for 15 years – but she claims she’s so poor she struggled to pay bills.
The mum of four – known in Edinburgh as Anne Tennant – was arrested this week following a five-year police investigation.
She’s currently being held in New York’s Rikers Island prison, where she claimed prosecutors were “trying to break her”.
During the probe, prosecutors said they recorded Gristina boasting of her close ties to police officers, federal agents and other authorities who helped protect her even as other prostitution rings were taken down.
She said she had no idea why prosecutors had targeted her, and claimed they kept pressing her, bringing in more and more investigators to intimidate her.
Speaking from prison, she said: “We live very much a simple life. I’ve been struggling to keep my daughter in college to pay the tuition. Our utilities are always on the verge of being shut off. I can show you the bills.
“This is not about me, it’s bigger than me. They’re trying to sweat me out. I’d bite my tongue off before I’d tell them anything.
“In effect, it was, ‘Tell us what we want, and we’ll let you go’. I kept asking for a lawyer. And they’d leave, send someone else in to try to get me to talk, and we’d do it all over again.
“I got the impression they were trying to make a case, but they didn’t really know what it was.
“You know what it was? It was fishing. I still have no idea what they wanted.”
Asked if claims she trafficked under-age girls were true, she said: “Absolutely not.”