Lawsuit: Tony Lazzaro offered hush money to minor he allegedly groomed
Minnesota GOP donor Anton "Tony" Lazzaro now faces a federal civil rights lawsuit.
Attorneys for one alleged victim claim Lazzaro and others groomed and recruited an unidentified minor.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court alleges that Anton Lazzaro’s attorneys offered $1,000 in hush money to the girl and her parents to keep them quiet and asked them to sign a non-disclosure agreement. The girl’s father refused and instead went to law enforcement.
The lawsuit, which also lists the girl’s parents as plaintiffs, alleges Lazzaro used his "power, wealth, influence, connections, and resources to recruit children … so that he could prey on them. When it became clear that Lazzaro had committed serious crimes, he attempted to coerce his victims and their families into keeping silent."
The girl and her parents are not named in the lawsuit.
Gisela Castro Medina, 19, also faces charges for allegedly recruiting girls for Lazzaro. Medina is the former chairperson of the Minnesota College Republicans chapter at the University of St. Thomas.
According to the lawsuit, Lazzaro and Medina targeted young women or girls on social media and introduced them to Lazzaro to be used for sex in exchange for money and gifts.
The lawsuit says that in 2018, when the girl was about 14, she and Medina became friends. In May of 2020, when the girl was 16, Medina recruited her to meet Lazzaro and began grooming her, explaining that he was a powerful, prominent and wealthy businessman and political figure.
From May to July 2020, Lazzaro arranged for cars to bring the girl to his home on several occasions, and he committed “multiple commercial sex acts” against her, the lawsuit says.
After months of repeated sex trafficking of the girl, Lazzaro attempted to coerce her to be silent. According to the lawsuit, Lazzaro’s attorneys called the girl’s father in July 2020 and offered the family hush money and a non-disclosure agreement. The attorney allegedly suggested that the girl was aggressively seeking to defame Lazzaro and Medina on social media.
The proposed non-disclosure agreement says Lazzaro and the girl had “a consensual interaction in the recent past,” the lawsuit says. The proposed agreement offers $1,000, and in exchange the girl and her parents would agree not to publicly disparage Lazzaro or Medina. It also demanded that they "not disclose the nature of the prior interaction with Mr. Lazarro to the public" so he could continue his sex trafficking enterprise, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, saying that as a result of the sexual abuse, the girl has suffered and will continue to suffer pain, emotional distress, embarrassment, humiliation, sexual confusion and other issues.
Lazzaro’s criminal trial is set to begin Oct. 18 in federal court in St. Paul.
The attorney filing the federal civil lawsuit held a news conference Tuesday morning.
Watch the full news conference via the video player above.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.