Attorney Peter Gleason claimed that the mother-of-four, who is accused of making millions from a high class Manhattan prostitute ring while living a double life as a "soccer mom" in upstate New York: "doesn't have two nickels to run together".

At a hearing at Manhattan's Supreme Court, he said that Gristina and her family could move into his loft apartment in the smart neighbourhood of TriBeCa until her trial in May.

He also offered to put the property up as collateral to cover a $2 million (£ 1.3million) bond she must pay along with $1 million (£640,000) in cash before being granted bail.

"I am willing to put up my home for Mrs Gristina to be released," Mr Gleason told Justice Juan Merchan.

"Mrs Gristina and her family will be welcomed to move into my loft in Tribeca. She doesn't have two nickels to rub together, your honour."

Prosecutors expressed concern about the "unethical" offer. Charles Linehan, the Assistant District Attorney said: "It's unethical. There are ethical concerns that come into play here. We definitely oppose this."

Judge Merchan said he would rule on the unusual request at a hearing on Thursday. He added: "I don't believe the law is crystal clear on this point. I believe, preliminarily, it is not a per se violation of the ethical rules."

Gristina, who was dressed in the same hounds tooth jacket she wore at a previous hearing last week but without the spectacles which made her look like a homely librarian, spoke only briefly during the hearing, when asked if she understood the rules surrounding her court appointed lawyer.

As well as Mr Gleason, a retired police officer who knows her via a mutual friend and is working on a pro-bono basis, she has been given an attorney by the state after claiming to lack the funds to defend herself.

Prosecutors say they have hundreds of hours of secretly tape recordings in which she is alleged to boast of making up to $10 million (£6.4 million) from prostitution over a five year period, sending much of it out of the country to avoid detection.

They claim that these funds, and Gristina's British passport, make her a flight risk, justifying her unusually high bail.

Justice Merchan told her: "If it comes to light at a later time that you do have money and the means to pay for legal representation, I will fully expect you to repay any money that the court has paid." She replied: "Absolutely".

After the hearing, Gristina was returned to Rikers Island, where she has been held in solitary confinement since her arrest last month.

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