MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A federal civil lawsuit has been filed against Anton “Tony” Lazzaro Tuesday, alleging the top Republican donor was the “ringmaster” of a sex trafficking enterprise.
The civil lawsuit is filed on behalf of a victim who was 16 when they were allegedly recruited by Lazzaro. The lawsuit says Lazzaro “used his power, wealth, influence, connections, and resources to recruit children as part of a predatory enterprise of perversion wherein he used whatever means he could to gain their trust so that he could prey on them.”
The lawsuit also names Gisela Castro Medina as a co-conspirator for allegedly grooming and recruiting the victim for the sex trafficking enterprise. Medina, a now-suspended student at the University of St. Thomas, faces seven federal charges, including one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors, five counts of sex trafficking of minors and one count of obstruction.
According to the lawsuit, Medina established a “social friendship” in 2018 with the victim in the federal civil lawsuit, two years before the alleged trafficking began and before Lazzaro came into the picture. Lazzaro is accused of conspiring with others, including Medina, to recruit the victims from May 2020 through December 2020. Medina and Lazzaro allegedly met through a website called “Seeking Arrangement” in 2020.
The lawsuit also accuses Lazzaro of coercing the victim’s silence with a non-disclosure agreement, offering $1,000 in exchange for the victim agreeing to not publicly disparage Lazzaro or Medina. The victim’s father declined the offer and reported Lazzaro to law enforcement, the lawsuit said.
“The individuals who filed this lawsuit today showed the public that their true motivation is greed,” an attorney representing Lazzaro said in a statement. “That is why these individuals tried to extort Mr. Lazzaro in writing in 2020. Mr. Lazzaro refused to be extorted then and refuses to be extorted today.”
Outside of the civil lawsuit, the federal sex trafficking charges Lazzaro faces are five counts of sex trafficking for minors, one count of attempted sex trafficking of a minor and three counts of obstruction.
Last month, a judge ruled that Lazzaro, 30, will remain in jail until his trial on federal sex trafficking charges. U.S. Magistrate Judge Hildy Bowbeer, citing the nature of the charges, rejected the request of Lazzaro’s defense who sought pretrial home confinement in his downtown Minneapolis condo.
Brandon Brugger, an officer with the Minneapolis Police Department who works on a state human trafficking task force, testified during a detention hearing last month that Lazzaro would pay 16- and 17-year-old girls — and at least one who was 15 — with cash, designer purses, makeup and vape pens in exchange for sex acts.
The sex trafficking allegations have rocked the Minnesota GOP. Lazzaro gave tens of thousands of dollars to Republican campaigns, party units and political action committees in recent years, and his close ties to Jennifer Carnahan, the state party chairwoman, prompted calls for her resignation. She later stepped down.
Lazzaro’s trial is set for Oct. 18 in federal court in St. Paul.