Tony Lazzaro’s year in jail: Hundreds of phone calls, 13 attorneys and a Tesla

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A year ago this week, a federal investigation rocked Minnesota’s Republican party when Anton “Tony” Lazzaro was arrested on child sex trafficking charges.

Federal prosecutors accuse the Republican donor and strategist of recruiting underage victims to have sex with other people. The arrest led to the return of thousands of dollars in campaign cash and the resignation of then-GOP party chair Jennifer Carnahan.

RELATED: Growing list of Minnesota GOP officials call for state party chair’s resignation

The 31-year-old pleaded not guilty to the charges and remains in federal custody. But recent court documents provide a window into what Lazzaro is doing as he awaits trial.

In addition to admitting that he bought his girlfriend a Tesla for Christmas, court records show in just a 12-month period, Lazzaro has hired 13 different private attorneys to represent him.

“That’s an extremely large number of lawyers,” said Tom Heffelfinger, a former U.S. Attorney for Minnesota. “There’s no indication that he’s either asked for or been appointed a Federal Defender…which means that the government is not paying for all these lawyers. He is.”

Prosecutors say Lazzaro is making dozens of calls a day from the Sherburne County Jail. In a recent court filing, an FBI agent wrote that “between January 1, 2022 and January 31, 2022, Lazzaro placed 705 calls,” spending more than 97 hours on the phone.

“This strikes me as a lot of phone calls,” said Kyle Loven, a former FBI special agent who investigated violent and white-collar crimes for more than two decades.

Heffelfinger, who reviewed the records, agrees.

“It’s unusual for a couple of reasons,” he said. “Number one, it’s expensive.”

SEE ALSO: Woman accused of conspiring with GOP donor indicted on federal sex trafficking charges | Lawsuit: Tony Lazzaro offered hush money to minor he allegedly groomed

An exhibit filed with a recent motion shows the calls cost anywhere from a few cents to a couple of dollars.

In a statement to 5 INVESTIGATES, Lazzaro’s attorney Charlie Clas said his client “has continued to exercise his right to counsel and has used some of his time incarcerated to make phone calls to friends and family.”

Loven said in a case like this, agents monitor jail calls for information that could be related to the case.

“They’re looking to see if there’s any incriminating remarks that the person has made or will make,” he said.

Earlier this summer, Lazzaro accused investigators of violating his constitutional rights by listening to his attorney-client calls, which an FBI agent denied.

“I had told my attorney about a Christmas gift for my girlfriend,” Lazzaro said during testimony in a hearing earlier this month. “[He] said that an assistant U.S. Attorney knew about the stuff I’d had bought for her, and made the comment, ‘Why does he need his Ferrari back, he just bought his girlfriend a Tesla.'”

When pressed by prosecutors, Lazzaro acknowledged he’d told his girlfriend, on the recorded line, about the gift.

No trial date has been set at this point.