On Wednesday, Anton Lazzaro, a businessman and former Republican activist, was sentenced to 21 years in prison for s*x trafficking in connection with five girls he bought to have s*x with him when they were 14 to 16 years old. Prosecutors in the Minneapolis U.S. Attorney’s Office called Lazzaro, 32, a s*xual predator and requested U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz to give him a 30-year jail sentence.
His legal team argued for the minimum possible punishment of ten years in prison. At his sentencing on Wednesday, Schiltz said, “Mr. Lazzaro has not shown a shred of remorse,” noting that the only sympathy Lazzaro had shown was for himself and New York millionaire Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted s*x offender who was charged with trafficking kids before he committed suicide in 2019.
Schiltz had previously ordered the federal government to seize Lazzaro’s Minneapolis condo and Blackberry phone (but not his 2010 Ferrari convertible) in preparation for sentence. At the court, Lazzaro opposed to the seizure of his condo and presented a meandering justification of his behavior while wearing an orange jail jumpsuit. Not once did he admit fault.
“I take offense to the government’s motion that I perjured myself in the trial,” he said, denying that he and an 18-year-old woman had conspired to recruit minors for s*xual exploitation. “I think you’re an honest man and extremely intelligent,” Lazzaro told Schiltz. “I am disappointed by many of your rulings.”
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One of the young women Lazzaro had paid for s*x with while she was still a minor spoke bitterly about how their s*xual experiences had led her to isolate herself, drink herself to insanity, and almost quit school. Lazzaro, she claimed, made her feel “worthless.” “I didn’t deserve what happened,” she said. “I was only 16. … What he did to me absolutely destroyed me.”
Her mom was standing right there and she said to Schiltz that before she met Lazzaro, her daughter was “happy, outgoing, excited about the future.” She claimed that at that point, her daughter “became a shadow of what she used to be.“
According to her mother, the young woman has received alcohol abuse therapy and lived in a halfway house, but she still struggles with anxiety and doesn’t trust males. Another victim’s mother spoke to Lazzaro directly. To which he said, “You stand up here and continue to justify your actions,” she remarked. “Right now, you’re even grinning.”
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She went on to say that he had left “a trail of devastation” for all five daughters, including her own daughter. “She was going to kill herself because of you,” she said. “My daughter is grieving and wants to die. … I hate you. You killed a part of my daughter. I hope you rot in hell.” The father of the teen became enraged.
“When he gets out, he’ll do this to other girls,” he warned Schiltz. It’s obvious that he’ll commit crimes again if he’s released. The public was in risk, according to Assistant US Attorney Laura Provinzino, who described Lazzaro as “every parent’s worst nightmare.” She said Lazzaro spent thousands of dollars to have underage girls recruited and exploited.
According to Provinzino, Lazzaro allegedly bribed one of the teens with $1,000 so that she would not testify against him. She went on to say that Lazzaro “was more concerned about his property [being confiscated] than about any of his victims” during the hearing on Wednesday. “He has accepted no responsibility,” she said.
Lazzaro’s attorney Daniel Gerdts stated after the hearing that he has filed a motion for a fresh trial and will appeal Lazzaro’s conviction. He has stated his opinion that the federal s*x trafficking law was misapplied by the prosecution. He argued that the case presented “quite a number of complicated legal issues” that should be reviewed by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. We are confident in our ability to prevail.
A’Reprehensible’ Level of Behavior was Displayed
The Minnesota Republican Party, to which Lazzaro had become a key supporter, suffered a public relations disaster after his arrest in 2021. A week after Lazzaro’s arrest, Jennifer Carnahan, who had strong contacts to him but denied knowing about his criminal actions, resigned as chair of the state GOP.
Schiltz, in handing down the punishment, observed that Lazzaro specifically targeted physically petite, naive, and socially isolated girls who were emotionally susceptible. He would amaze them with his private elevator to the floor and send them pictures of himself with celebrities and politicians.
According to Schiltz, Lazzaro plied the women with Everclear, which has one of the highest alcohol percentages of any liquor, in an effort to make them as tipsy as possible. He claimed that some people got so inebriated that they lost all control of their bodies and were unable to make sound decisions.
Schiltz argued that the federal s*x trafficking legislation is predicated on the idea that minors lack the mental capacity to provide informed consent to s*xual activities. Lazzaro countered that the acts were in fact consensual. He claimed the government just needed to show the victim was under 18 to secure a conviction.
The judge stated that the worst traffickers should receive the heaviest punishments. He called Lazzaro’s actions “reprehensible,” but stressed that there was no physical violence or fear of physical violence involved. He emphasized that the females in question were not very young but rather teenagers who were still a year or two away from reaching 18.
Schiltz argued that the victims did not have the legal capacity to sell themselves to Lazzaro because they were not old enough to vote, buy a beer in a bar, see an R-rated movie without an adult, gamble in a casino, or get a tattoo.
After a trial in March, a jury found Lazzaro guilty of five counts of soliciting and paying the minors for s*x. Both in court and in his post-trial brief, he insisted that the girls were eager to have s*x and that the money he spent on them was a present, not a payment.
At trial, prosecutors claimed that Lazzaro had paid Gisela Castro Medina, then an 18-year-old student at the University of St. Thomas, to solicit other minors for victimization. Today, 21-year-old Castro Medina admitted guilt on counts of conspiracy and obstruction of justice, having testified against Lazzaro at his trial. Her sentencing is set for September 5.
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Andrew Luger, the United States Attorney, was present for the sentence but declined to comment. A representative stated he will wait until Castro Medina’s sentencing to comment on the case. Lazzaro must complete s*x offender treatment and serve a five-year term of supervised release following his stint in jail.
To use a computer while under supervision, he must first register as a s*x offender and receive permission from his probation officer. He must also provide $30,000 to the Fund for Victims of Domestic Trafficking. Attorney Gerdts revealed to Schiltz that their client prefers a minimum-security federal jail than Minnesota’s Sandstone.
St. Paul attorney Jeffrey Anderson, who is representing one of the young victims in a civil action against Lazzaro, was present at the court and testified on behalf of his client. In response to a question about how the family feels about the punishment, Anderson replied, “There is some relief that real justice was done and he’s behind bars for 21 years.” And so, for the next two decades and one day, children need not worry.
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