This story was originally published on Aug. 12.By WCCO-TV Staff

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A 30-year-old Minneapolis man is in custody, facing federal charges accusing him of recruiting six minor victims to engage in commercial sex acts.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota released court documents Thursday, saying Anton Joseph Lazzaro — also known as Tony Lazzaro — conspired with others to recruit the victims from May 2020 through December 2020.

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Tony Lazzaro (credit: Sherburne County)

Lazzaro, the founder of the GOP PAC Big Tent Republicans, was arrested Thursday and later made his first court appearance. The federal sex trafficking charges he faces are five counts of sex trafficking for minors, one count of attempted sex trafficking of a minor and three counts of obstruction.

“Based on the evidence obtained in this investigation, authorities believe there may be additional victims of the alleged conduct,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a release.

Anyone with information about this matter is being asked to call the FBI Minneapolis Division at 763-569-8000.

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The Minnesota DFL is asking Minnesota Republicans “to donate the money they received from Lazzaro to anti-trafficking organizations.”

The DFL said Lazzaro has given about $150,000 to state Republicans.

“These allegations are disturbing and troubling, and they make my heart ache for the victims of such a horrifying crime,” Republican state Sen. Karin Housley said in a statement. “It has been many years since I have seen Mr. Lazzaro, and I felt it important to the victims to do what I can to offer support so that others do not experience the same hardship. I will be sending a check to the group Women’s Foundation of Minnesota for their ‘Our Girls Are Not For Sale’ program in the same amount my campaign for U.S. Senate received from Lazzaro so they may have resources to support other victims of trafficking.”

On Friday, the Republican Party of Minnesota released a statement saying that it will be donating Lazzaro’s contributions to charity.

“Sex trafficking is a heinous act that preys on victims of all ages, races, and backgrounds, and warrants severe punishment by our judicial system,” the party’s statement said. “A full investigation is necessary to ensure due process is provided to all parties involved.”

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