Former political donor, strategist sentenced to 21 years on sex trafficking charges
The man prosecutors dubbed “Minnesota’s Jeffrey Epstein” has been sentenced to 21 years in prison on sex trafficking charges.
Anton “Tony” Lazzaro, 32, was found guilty in March of one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor and five counts of sex trafficking of a minor.
The political donor and strategist’s arrest in 2021 rocked the Minnesota Republican party. Lazzaro had donated thousands of dollars in campaign cash to the party and various candidates. The controversy led to the resignation of then-party chair Jennifer Carnahan.
In a packed courtroom Wednesday morning, Chief Judge Patrick Schiltz delivered his sentencing decision. In addition to the 21-year sentence, Lazzaro has to forfeit his luxury condo to the government, as well as pay an undetermined amount of restitution directly to his victims.
“The victims in this case were not women disguised as girls,” Schiltz said. “They were children. Children too young to vote, to buy a beer in a restaurant, to watch an R-rated movie.”
While Judge Schiltz stressed the seriousness of Lazzaro’s conduct, he also acknowledged the sentencing guidelines allowed him to go higher.
“The very longest sentences should be reserved for the very worst offenders,” the judge said.
Jeff Anderson, an attorney who represents one of Lazzaro’s victims in a civil lawsuit, said he is still pleased with the sentence.
“Kids will be safer for 21 years while he is in federal prison,” Anderson said after the hearing Wednesday. “There is a real measure of justice and to [the judge], we and the survivors and their families are really grateful.”
Several of Lazzaro’s victims sat with their family members during the hearing. One of the victims spoke in court, saying after the encounter with Tony she began isolating herself and drinking heavily.
“Tony will never understand what he did was wrong,” she said. “What he did to me was selfish. He took my innocence from me and gave me cash in return.”
During the two-week-long trial in March, prosecutors argued Lazzaro used his wealth and political status to lure five minor victims to his condo, where he paid them for sex. He gave them cash, vapes and other items.
Lazzaro, who spoke during the hearing, continues to deny he did anything wrong.
“I suppose anyone who gives someone a gift — a cheap gift or a million dollars — are grooming their companion for sex,” he said to the judge.
In his long, rambling remarks to the court, he did not apologize to his victims and called the prosecutors in the case “dishonest people.”
Lazzaro’s co-defendant, Gisela Castro Medina, is expected to be sentenced in September. In December 2022, she entered a guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors as well as aiding and abetting sex trafficking by obstruction. She testified on behalf of the government in Lazzaro’s trial.