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An embattled Minnestoa political strategist, arrested last month for child sex trafficking, is now accused of using “hush money” to silence a victim he allegedly groomed for commercial sex.
Anton Lazzaro, 30, used his “power, wealth, influence, connections, and resources” to recruit and sex traffic a 16-year-old girl, according to a new federal civil lawsuit obtained by Oxygen.com.
The lawsuit, filed in Minnesota District Court on Tuesday by the victim and her parents, accuses Lazzaro of grooming and sex trafficking the teen between May and July 2020.
Lazzaro, described as the “sexual ringmaster” in the child sex trafficking scheme in the lawsuit is accused of enlisting Gisela Castro Medina, 19, to recruit the teen, according to court documents. The 16-year-old was later introduced to the political donor in late May 2020.
“Medina targeted girls and women that she knew or that she discovered on social media and introduced them to Lazzaro in exchange for money and gifts,” the civil complaint states.
Lazzaro and Medina met on “Seeking Arrangement,” a “sugar dating” site, which matches wealthy men with sexual companions, the civil lawsuit alleges.
The GOP donor later arranged cars to bring the minor victim to his residence on numerous occasions according to the lawsuit.
Lazzaro’s attorneys later accused the victim of defaming him and pressured her to sign a non-disclosure agreement — or a “gag order” — “to keep [her] silent about Lazzaro’s sex trafficking activities so Lazzaro could continue the sex trafficking enterprise.”
“When it became clear that Lazzaro had committed serious crimes, he attempted to coerce his victims and their families into keeping silent,” the complaint alleged. “After months of repeated sex trafficking of the Minor Doe by Lazzaro, Lazzaro attempted to coerce Plaintiffs' silence through Lazzaro's attorneys and to cover-up his illegal activity with a non-disclosure agreement.”
The supposed agreement acknowledged that Lazzaro and the teenage victim had a “consensual interaction in the recent past.” Lazzaro’s attorneys allegedly offered the victim $1,000 to not publicly slander Medina or disclose the nature of their relationship.
The victim’s father ultimately reported Lazzaro to authorities.
According to the civil suit, the 16-year-old now suffers from “severe and permanent emotional distress, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, humiliation, and psychological injuries, sexual confusion, [and] depression.” She requires ongoing medical and psychological treatment, including therapy and counseling. The civil suit is seeking unspecified damages.
Lazzaro’s legal team dismissed the allegations contained in the new civil suit as a feeble attempt to extort the Minnesota political donor.
“The individuals who filed this lawsuit today showed the public that their true motivation is greed,” Zachary Newland, Lazzaro’s defense attorney, told Oxygen.com in a statement Wednesday. “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.”
In August, Lazzaro, along with his co-defendant, Medina, were charged with 10 counts of minor sex trafficking, according to a separate indictment obtained by Oxygen.com. Lazzaro has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Lazzaro, who has “several powerful political connections” and owns dozens of businesses around the U.S., has worked digital operations for a number of Republican political campaigns. He’s closely “aligned” with an ex-chairperson of a major Minnesota political party, as well as members of the media, the lawsuit also claims.
Since his arrest, a growing number of Republicans have distanced themselves from the disgraced political pundit.
“I am shocked and disgusted over the allegations made in the federal indictment lodged against Anton Lazzaro,” former congressional candidate Lacy Johnson wrote in a statement.
In 2020, Lazzaro volunteered on Republican candidate Johnson’s campaign in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District. Rep. Ilhan Omar ultimately defeated Johnson in the general election last November.
“I was not aware that any investigation was underway until contacted by the press nor was I aware of any behavior that led to the complaint," Johnson added. "Neither I nor my congressional campaign organization have been contacted by authorities about this matter. I fully support vigorous enforcement of human trafficking laws. This matter is now in the hands of the courts. May justice be served.”
Prior to his arrest, Lazzaro was an occasional commentator on Fox News. The GOP operative owns Minneapolis-based marketing and technology firm Gold River Group LLC. He’s also the founder and director of the Big Tent Republicans PAC.
Lazzaro has also “flaunted” and “actively displayed” his lavish lifestyle on social media, posting images of himself perched on private jets, driving Ferraris, carrying exorbitant quantities of cash, and posing alongside former President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, the lawsuit alleged. He has nearly 11,000 followers on Twitter.
Lazzaro has a motion hearing scheduled in Minnesota District Court on Oct. 7 on charges stemming from his arrest last month. He’s being held at a Sherburne County detention center, according to online jail records.
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