A well-connected Republican strategist who would flaunt his wealth online has been convicted of sex trafficking minors in Minneapolis.
Anton Lazzaro was described by prosecutors as ‘Minneapolis’s Jeffrey Epstein’ as he was accused of preying on ‘broken’ young girls, plying them with Everclear liquor and paying tens of thousands of dollars after having sex with them.
Defense attorneys alleged the 32-year-old – who once captioned a shot of Epstein ‘RIP my brother’ – was trying to ‘fix’ the high school students and even enlisted one as a recruiter.
One girl broke down as she told the court she took three showers a day after her encounter with Lazzaro, adding ‘my innocence was stolen from me.’
All the victims were described as mostly white and slender, with many claiming to have suffered drug and alcohol addictions.
Republican strategist Anton Lazzaro, 32, who was described by prosecutors as ‘Minneapolis’s Jeffrey Epstein’, has been convicted of sex trafficking minors in Minneapolis.
Lazzaro is reported to have given more than $270,000 to campaigns and political committees. He is pictured with Donald Trump, left, and former Vice President Mike Pence, right
Lazzaro admitted to having sex with his victims in 2020 – when he was 30 years old – but denied recruiting them, the Minnesota Star Tribune reports.
He was found guilty of seven counts involving five girls aged between 15 and 16 meaning on Friday. He now faces between 10 years and life in prison.
His current girlfriend Kira Costal, 21, testified in his defense.
In the past he had branded himself a ‘next-generation Republican’ who has ‘more modernized views’ and sought to make the party more hospitable to LGBTQ communities and women.
Federal Election Commission records show he donated to the Republican party for nearly a decade. He is reported to have given more than $270,000 to campaigns and political committees.
And in 2020, he served as a campaign manager for the unsuccessful bid of GOP candidate Lacy Johnson.
Johnson denied knowing about Lazzaro’s exploits as he claimed: ‘I don’t know that side of Tony. He’s young, he’s got money, and… that tends to attract females.’
Lazzaro was on the shortlist of Minnesota’s GOP slate of ‘alternate’ presidential electors who could substitute for any missing delegates in 2020.
That same year he shared a video on Twitter of Joe Biden interacting with a young girl – adding ‘Parents need to keep their kids away from Creepy Joe.’
On social media he would frequently boast about his flashy lifestyle by posting photos of himself in planes, with bottles of champagne and sports cars
Some of the victims described being introduced to Lazzaro on social media through Medina or a male acquaintance of his
One 15-year-old said she was picked up from a slumber party with two friends to meet Lazzaro
On social media he would frequently boast about his flashy lifestyle by posting photos of himself with planes, sports cars and bottles of champagne.
One 15-year-old said she was picked up from a slumber party with two friends while another was paid to have group sex with Lazzaro and her older sister.
He was also accused of recruiting Gisela Castro Medina, 21, who eventually testified against him.
Lazzaro paid Medina more than $54,000, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
Prosecutors said the money was payment for her obtaining underage girls for his pleasure as well as for her silence.
Lazzaro told the court he gave Medina the sums out of generosity. He plans to appeal the decision, a spokesman told Associated Press.
Some of the victims said they were introduced to Lazzaro on social media through Medina or a male acquaintance of his.
Medina pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing in August.
The court heart he would take the girls to his condo and give them Everclear – the strongest liquor available.
Lazzaro is currently in a relationship with Kira Costal, 21, who testified in his defense
The case was centered around allegations from 2020 when he was 30 years old
During the trial prosecutors were shown an image of Jeffrey Epstein which Lazzaro sent to a friend with the caption ‘RIP my brother.’ He is pictured with his girlfriend on Facebook
Prosecutors allege he then had a playbook or ‘breaking-in process’ which involved giving the girls money and presents while also listening to their troubles. Attorneys said he saw the process as ‘an art.’
The FBI was alerted to the case after the mother of one victim noticed worrying behavioral changes in her daughter along with suspiciously big cash deposits to their shared banking account.
According to the Star Tribune, The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was already looking into reports from another victim’s family.
Agents raided his 19th floor Hotel Ivy condo in downtown Minneapolis in December 2020. He was arrested in August 2021. Lazzaro has shared videos of the raid on his website.
During the trial prosecutors were shown an image of Jeffrey Epstein which Lazzaro sent to a friend with the caption ‘RIP my brother.’
Prosecutor Melinda Williams told the jury Lazzaro was a man who ‘seemed like he had it all.’
‘He wanted sex, and not just any sex,’ she added.
‘He wanted sex with minor girls under the age of 18. And he had a plan to get it.’
His representatives vehemently denied he trafficked the girls as they repeatedly insisted he was unfairly targeted.
Spokesperson Stacy Bettison said he ‘continues to believe he was selectively prosecuted for his political activities’ in a statement Friday.
Lazzaro shared a video of the dramatic moment FBI agents raided his 19th floor Hotel Ivy condo in downtown Minneapolis back in 2020
Lazzaro appeared often as a contributor on Fox news. In the past he branded himself a ‘next-generation Republican’ who has ‘more modernized views’
He was also accused of recruiting Gisela Castro Medina, 21, pictured, who eventually testified against him
Medina pleaded guilty and is awaiting her sentencing in August
The pair are pictured together on Lazzaro’s website
Meanwhile his attorney Daniel Gerdts told the jury: ‘The prosecution clearly disapproves of Mr. Lazzaro’s playboy lifestyle.
And frankly, as the father of three daughters so do I. The opprobrium is well deserved, but that is not why we’re here.’
Lazzaro nodded along in the courtroom as Gerdts made his case, the Star Tribune reports.
At other times he shifted in his chair, shook his head in disgust and muttered to himself and his attorneys.
A sentencing date has not been confirmed.