On August 12th, the FBI arrested Anton “Tony” Lazzaro, 30, a Minneapolis Republican strategist and political donor, based on allegations of trafficking minors. The federal indictment alleges that Lazzaro recruited six minors to engage in sex for money over several months during 2020. Based on these allegations, a federal grand jury indicted him on charges including one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors, five counts of sex trafficking of minors, one count of attempted sex trafficking of a minor, and three counts of obstruction of justice.
The indictment further ordered Lazzaro to forfeit “real property” at the Hotel Ivy in Minneapolis, a 2010 Ferrari, and $371,240 in cash, about two dozen electronic devices, which includes multiple cellphones, laptops, and a GPS tracker. Additionally, authorities believe that there may have been more victims than the six identified in the indictment.
In the past, Lazzaro donated approximately $150,000 to Minnesota Republican candidates, party units, and allied organizations. Due to this, DFL Chairman Ken Martin called on the recipients of these donations to donate the money to anti-trafficking organizations.
Lazzaro was the Minnesota Delegate at the GOP National Convention in 2020 and the campaign manager for Lacy Johnson, who unsuccessfully ran against U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis. He also founded the Big Tent Republications PAC, whose mission statement is “dedicated to broadening the base and appeal of the Republican Party.” Records demonstrate that Lazzaro runs the Minneapolis-based Gold River Group. His attorney claims that Lazzaro is innocent and “looks forward to clearing his good name.”
Following Lazzaro’s arrest, a grand jury also indicted Gisela Castro Medina, the wealthy nineteen-year-old chair of the Minnesota Young Republicans at the University of St. Thomas, as Lazzaro’s co-defendant. She has been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors, five counts of sex trafficking of minors, and one count of obstruction. Medina’s identity was previously redacted in Lazzaro’s indictment.
After facing criticisms due to past associations with Lazzaro, the Minnesota GOP Chairwoman, Jennifer Carnahan, released a statement: “The arrest and charges involving Ms. Gisela Castro Media, in conjunction with Thursday’s arrest and sex trafficking of Mr. Anton Lazzaro are heinous and disturbing. Conviction of these charges warrants punishment to the fullest extent of the law, and we fully anticipate justice will be served.” Carnahan also disavowed any relationship and ties with the Minnesota College Republicans after Medina’s arrest. However, Carnahan has since resigned from her position amid calls for this action following these allegations and other scandals.
The allegations against Lazzaro continue the trend seen during 2021 of high-profile politicians – including Andrew Cuomo, Matt Gaetz, and Rick Roeber – being accused of various sex crimes ranging from sexual harassment to sex trafficking minors. Such charges and pursuit of prosecution against these powerful persons appear to demonstrate a new shift towards people in positions of power facing accountability for their crimes instead of being protected from prosecution.
The CSE Institute commends the continued effort of rooting out politicians and their affiliates who abuse their power and position to exploit vulnerable persons, here, children. The case against Lazzaro demonstrates the inherent power dynamics at play in sex trafficking. Often individuals without resources suffer exploitation by those with wealth, power, and resources, who seek further economic benefit. Only accountability and pursuit of charges against powerful and wealthy individuals can take down these power dynamics that continue to exploit the vulnerable.