A former well-connected Republican fundraiser who was convicted of offering gifts, wine, and money to teenage girls in exchange for sex was sentenced to 21 years in prison on sex trafficking charges on Wednesday.
In March, a federal jury found Anton “Tony” Lazzaro guilty on seven counts of “commercial sex acts” with five girls aged 15 and 16 in 2020, when Lazzaro was 30. The charges carried mandatory minimum terms of ten years in jail and a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Prosecutors had asked for a 30-year prison sentence for Lazzaro. They compared Lazzaro to tycoon Jeffrey Epstein, who was jailed in 2019 on federal allegations of paying teenage girls for massages and then assaulting them at his Florida and New York properties. The defence requested no more than ten years in prison.
“He’s a sex trafficker,” prosecutor Laura Provinzino said. “One who has shown absolutely no remorse. He has accepted no responsibility for his crimes.”
U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz sat in the middle and slammed Lazzaro.
He said Lazzaro showed sympathy to only two people during the trial — “to himself and Jeffrey Epstein.” And the judge said he was struck by the “soulless, almost mechanical nature” of how Lazzaro exploited the girls.
“It’s almost as if Mr. Lazzaro set up a sex trafficking assembly line,” Schiltz said.
Lazzaro, who has claimed that the claims against him are politically motivated, has maintained his innocence, denying that he paid any of the females for sex.
“I take a lot of offense to the government and court’s notion that I perjured myself in this trial. … Grooming behavior is the word you used,” he said. “If that’s the case, then I suppose anyone who gives someone a gift, whether it be a cheap gift or a million dollars, is grooming their companion for sex. OK? If that’s the standard that we’re going to apply, then I don’t know how there’s any standard to apply.”
After the hearing, defence attorney Daniel Gerdts stated that they were “looking forward to the appeal.”
In 2021, Lazzaro’s conviction sparked a political tempest that resulted in Jennifer Carnahan’s resignation as chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota.
Gisela Castro Medina, his co-defendant at the time, was the previous president of the College Republicans branch at the University of St. Thomas. Last year, she pleaded guilty to two counts. She testified against Lazzaro and is scheduled to be sentenced in September.
During his trial, prosecutors alleged that Lazzaro used Castro Medina, whom he originally paid for sex, to recruit additional youths, ideally minors, who were white, little, fragile, or “broken.” They stated he frequently sent cars to take the girls to his fancy penthouse condo at the Hotel Ivy in downtown Minneapolis.