Lazzaro co-conspirator to be sentenced in September in sex trafficking case
After sentencing Anton “Tony” Lazzaro to 21 years in prison for his role in a sex trafficking scheme in 2020, the federal judge overseeing the case will now turn his attention to Lazzaro’s co-conspirator.
Gisela Castro Medina is expected to be sentenced next month. The 21-year-old went from recruiter and co-defendant, to witness and cooperator. She took a plea deal from the U.S. Attorney’s Office last year and testified against Lazzaro earlier this spring.
That testimony proved critical to the government’s case against the former political donor and strategist and could also lead to a lighter sentence, according to a former U.S. attorney.
“She’ll certainly receive less than Lazzaro does,” said Rachel Paulose in an interview Thursday. “How much less is still a question for the judge to consider.”
In the coming weeks, the government is expected to recommend a suggested prison sentence for Medina. According to her plea deal, she could face a range between 15 and 20 years.
Paulose expects Medina’s attorney will argue for a significantly lower sentence, including no prison time at all.
“It is true that she accepted responsibility for her actions,” Paulose said. “But it’s also true that she had a significant role to play in recruiting these young women and grooming them and trying to make them feel safe. I don’t think that that that those factors can be completely erased.”
In March during Lazzaro’s trial, Medina told the jury she used social media sites to find teenage girls who Lazzaro then paid for sex.
“Over time, I learned he wanted younger girls, around 16 and up,” Castro Medina said. “He preferred what he calls ‘broken girls.’ Sluts. Whores.”
During Lazzaro’s sentencing hearing, Chief Judge Patrick J. Schiltz described the scheme’s “soulless, almost mechanical nature,” as if Lazzaro “set up a sex trafficking assembly line.”
Paulose said the judge’s comments point to the seriousness of the crime.
“He really was speaking, I think, to the dignity of human life,” Paulose said in an interview Thursday. “Miss Medina did contribute to the degradation of human life and that also needs to be taken into account at sentencing.”
In court Wednesday, Judge Schiltz said he found Medina’s testimony “highly credible.” That credibility, along with Medina’s acceptance of responsibility and her remorse will also factor into her sentence, Paulose said.
Medina’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Sept. 5.