(The AEGIS Alliance) – Anton “Tony” Lazzaro, a Republican donor who was previously well-connected, is facing trial on federal charges of sex trafficking minors. He has been accused of providing cash, liquor, and gifts to petite and vulnerable teenage girls in exchange for commercial sex acts. The charges include seven counts related to the exploitation of five minors aged between 15 and 16 years in 2020, when he was 30 years old.
Lazzaro’s co-defendant in the case is Gisela Castro Medina, who previously headed the College Republicans chapter at the University of St. Thomas. Medina has already pleaded guilty to two counts in the case last year and is now cooperating with prosecutors. She is expected to testify against Lazzaro during the trial. Medina is set to be sentenced in August.
Despite the allegations against him, Lazzaro has denied the charges of sex trafficking and claims that he is being targeted by the government because of his wealth and political affiliations. However, prosecutors have maintained that the case is solely focused on the allegations of sex trafficking.
Neither the prosecution nor the defense team have indicated any intention to call political figures as witnesses in the case. Additionally, US District Judge Patrick Schiltz has already rejected Lazzaro’s claims of selective prosecution.
Nevertheless, Lazzaro remains steadfast in his insistence of innocence and continues to maintain that the charges against him are politically motivated.
“Mr. Lazzaro believes he is being targeted by the US Department of Justice for his political activities,” spokeswoman Stacy Bettison said according to a statement made to The Associated Press.
“The unusual application of the federal sex trafficking statute to the facts in Mr. Lazzaro’s case supports his beliefs. He is not alone in his view that the US Department of Justice is politicizing prosecutions. Many other individuals, including many members of Congress and most recently the Senate Judiciary Committee, have recently raised legitimate and credible concerns that Attorney General (Merrick) Garland is politicizing the department by aggressively investigating Republicans and conservative activists, like Mr. Lazzaro.”
It is worth noting that Jennifer Carnahan is the widow of former US Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who passed away in February 2022 due to kidney cancer. Prior to the charges against Lazzaro being unsealed in August 2021, Carnahan denied having any knowledge of his alleged wrongdoing and publicly condemned his actions.
However, Lazzaro’s arrest and the subsequent allegations against Carnahan fueled outrage among Republican Party activists. Accusations emerged that Carnahan had created a toxic work environment and used nondisclosure agreements to silence her critics.
In the wake of the controversy, Carnahan resigned from her position as chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota a week later.
Carnahan and Lazzaro had initially become friends during her unsuccessful run for a legislative seat in 2016. He supported her bid to become party chair in 2017 and even attended her wedding to Jim Hagedorn in 2018. The two also co-hosted a podcast together for a few months.
In addition to his ties to Carnahan and the Minnesota Republican Party, Lazzaro also played a role in Republican politics on a national level. He helped run the campaign of Republican Lacy Johnson, who unsuccessfully challenged Democratic US Rep. Ilhan Omar in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District in 2020.
Lazzaro was also known to associate with prominent Republicans, including former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence, as evidenced by pictures on his social media accounts.
In 2019, Lazzaro founded a political action committee called Big Tent Republicans, which advocated for a more inclusive Republican Party.
Over the years, Lazzaro had donated more than $270,000 to Republican campaigns and political committees, including $42,000 to the Minnesota Republican Party and $31,000 to Jim Hagedorn’s campaign. After the charges against Lazzaro were made public, several recipients of his donations, including US Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, quickly donated the funds to charity. Despite this, Emmer suffered no repercussions and went on to become the majority whip in January.
Federal prosecutors allege that Anton “Tony” Lazzaro conspired with Gisela Castro Medina and others to recruit underage girls for sex in exchange for cash and valuable items. The alleged activities occurred in 2020, when Lazzaro was 30 years old, and involved five minors aged 15 and 16. The two reportedly met on a “sugar daddy” website when Castro Medina was 18 years old and in high school.
Prosecutors argue that Lazzaro had a preference for young, vulnerable girls without tattoos and paid Castro Medina over $50,000, including money for tuition, an off-campus apartment, and a Mini Cooper. Lazzaro would allegedly send cars to take the girls to his penthouse condo at the Hotel Ivy in downtown Minneapolis.
“Once the girls Castro Medina recruited arrived at Lazzaro’s apartment, a similar pattern ensued,” it’s alleged in the case. “Lazzaro would brag about his wealth and connections. He would give the girls — small and young — hard liquor. Lazzaro would take out stacks of cash and offer the girls precise sums of money to perform certain sex acts with him, and with each other. $100 to kiss. $400 for sex. And so forth. He would send them home with cash, vapes, alcohol, Plan B, cell phones, and other items of value.”
Regarding the mention of “Plan B”, it is important to note that it is a form of emergency contraception and not a form of abortion, as it is often confused. Plan B works by preventing ovulation or fertilization, and does not terminate an established pregnancy. It is available without a prescription to individuals 17 years and older in the United States.
As for the lawsuit against Lazzaro, the alleged victim claims that he offered her and her parents $1,000 in hush money and a nondisclosure agreement, suggesting an attempt to silence her about the alleged abuse. The charges against Lazzaro are serious and carry significant penalties, including a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, and a maximum potential sentence of life imprisonment. Lazzaro has been denied bail and has been held in jail since his arrest.
Kyle James Lee – The AEGIS Alliance – This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.