Lazzaro found guilty on all counts in federal sex trafficking trial

(ABC 6 News) – A Minneapolis man has been found guilty by a federal jury of orchestrating a sex trafficking conspiracy in which he trafficked multiple minor girls, announced United States Attorney Andrew M. Luger.

Following a 10-day trial before Chief Judge Patrick J. Schiltz, Anton Joseph Lazzaro, a/k/a “Tony Lazzaro,” 32, was convicted on one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors and five counts of sex trafficking of minors. Lazzaro’s co-defendant, Gisela Castro Medina, 20, pleaded guilty on December 19, 2022, to one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors and one count of obstruction. Sentencing hearings for Lazzaro and Castro Medina will be scheduled at a later date.

The prosecution team, led by Assistant United States Attorneys Melinda Williams, Laura Provinzino and Emily Polachek, emphasized that this case “represents the face of modern-day sex trafficking.” They went on to state that, “today’s guilty verdict recognizes the bravery of the five young victims who were trafficked by Lazzaro. We are humbled by their courage and inspired by their journeys to regain their power.”

“Today, justice was served. This judgment of guilt means that Mr. Lazzaro will never again be able to use his fortune to manipulate young, vulnerable girls for his benefit. Few crimes are as heinous as the sexual exploitation of minors. The FBI and its law enforcement partners are dedicated to safeguarding the most vulnerable members of society and will continue to use all available resources to investigate anyone who engages in such predatory criminal activity.” said Alvin M. Winston, FBI Special Agent in Charge, Minneapolis Division.

“We hope the individuals Lazzaro victimized feel some sense of justice today, and that all sex trafficking survivors know we will continue to work to hold accountable the men and women who commit these terrible crimes. This verdict reinforces that no one is above the law. Lazzaro’s wealth and privilege helped him facilitate these crimes but did not shield him from justice,” said Superintendent Drew Evans of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

As proven at trial, Lazzaro conspired with Castro Medina to recruit young girls – 15-year-olds and 16-year-olds – to have sex with him in exchange for cash and other items of value. Lazzaro met Castro Medina in May of 2020 through the Seeking Arrangements website, which is known as a “sugar daddy” website. Lazzaro directed Castro Medina to identify girls she knew and others on social media who would have sex with him for money. Lazzaro specified that he was looking for young girls of a certain skin color, petite body type, and those who were considered vulnerable, referring to them as “broken girls.” Castro Medina would show Lazzaro photographs of minor girls and if Lazzaro “approved” Castro Medina would provide the minor’s contact information to Lazzaro. Castro Medina told the minors that Lazzaro was an older guy with a lot of money, and that he wanted to be a sugar daddy to younger girls. For her role in recruiting multiple minor girls, Lazzaro paid Castro Medina more than $50,000.

As proven at trial, Lazzaro often sent cars, typically Ubers, to transport the minor girls to his luxury condo in the Hotel Ivy in downtown Minneapolis. At one point, Lazzaro sent a driver to pick up a group of 14 and 15-year-olds from a slumber party in St. Michael, Minnesota. When minor girls came to his condo, Lazzaro would give them alcohol, flash stacks of cash, and offer the girls precise sums of money to perform various sex acts. Lazzaro would send the minor girls home with cash, vapes, alcohol, Plan B, cell phones, and other items of value. Lazzaro carried out this trafficking scheme from May 2020 through December 2020.

Following the execution of federal search warrants at Lazzaro’s condo on December 15, 2020, Lazzaro and Castro Medina discussed which of the minor victims spoke to law enforcement. As part of her guilty plea, Castro Medina admitted that in March 2021, she and Lazzaro agreed to pay off a 15-year-old victim to prevent her from talking to law enforcement about engaging in commercial sex with Lazzaro.

This case is the result of a joint investigation by the FBI and the Minnesota Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force – led by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, with assistance from Homeland Security Investigations, the Minneapolis Police Department, the West Hennepin Public Safety Department, and the Wright County Sheriff’s Office.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Melinda A. Williams, Laura M. Provinzino, and Emily A. Polachek tried the case.