Gisela Castro Medina pleaded guilty this week in federal court to her role in a sex trafficking conspiracy after recruiting six minor victims to engage in commercial sex acts, announced United States Attorney Andrew M. Luger.
Castro Medina, 20, conspired with co-defendant and former Republican donor and strategist Anton Joseph Lazzaro, 32, to recruit and solicit six minor victims to engage in commercial sex acts, according to court documents.
Details from the case state that Castro Medina, who was a 19-year-old student at the University of St. Thomas and the new chair of the University of St. Thomas College Republicans at the time, met Lazzaro through the Seeking Arrangements website, which is known as a “sugar daddy” website. Lazzaro began communicating with Castro Medina and a minor victim and invited them to his condo at the Hotel Ivy in Minneapolis. Before arriving at the Hotel Ivy, Castro Medina told Lazzaro that the minor victim was only 16 years old. Lazzaro provided Castro Medina and the minor victim with alcohol and paid them $600 for commercial sex acts with him. Lazzaro continued to engage in commercial sexual activity with the minor victim and, on each occasion, Lazzaro paid her in the form of an envelope of cash. Castro Medina took half of each cash payment.
Castro Medina and Lazzaro continued to communicate via Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Signal. Lazzaro directed Castro Medina to use WhatsApp and eventually Signal because of the applications’ encryption and deletion features. Castro Medina used social media and her school, friend, and community networks to identify other minor girls for Lazzaro. Castro Medina would show Lazzaro photographs of minor girls and if Lazzaro “approved,” Castro Medina would reach out to the minor and provide the minor’s contact information to Lazzaro. Castro Medina told the minors that Lazzaro was an older guy with a lot of money, and that he wanted to be a sugar daddy to younger girls.
Castro Medina admitted that, at the time of recruitment, she knew that the victims were minors and that Lazzaro paid the minor victims money in exchange for sex acts. Castro Medina also admitted that Lazzaro provided the minor victims with alcohol, vaping cartridges, food, smartphones, high-end purses, rooms in the Hotel Ivy, and transportation. For her role of identifying, recruiting, and introducing minors, Lazzaro compensated Castro Medina with cash and Venmo payments, as well as rent and utility payments for her apartment, tuition payments to the University of St. Thomas, car payments, travel expenses, and other items.
Court documents also state that Castro Medina admitted that in March 2021, she and Lazzaro conspired to pay off a 15-year-old victim to prevent her from talking to law enforcement about engaging in commercial sex with Lazzaro after a federal search warrant had been executed months earlier. Castro Medina picked up the minor victim at her place of employment, drove the minor victim around in her Mini Cooper, and provided her with hundreds of dollars in cash, gift cards, vapes, and alcohol from Lazzaro. Castro Medina also told the minor victim not to text Lazzaro anymore.
Castro Medina pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors and one count of obstruction. A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled, and Castro Medina is expected to testify for the prosecution in Lazzaro’s case, which is scheduled to begin in March 2023.
Lazzaro’s indictment on 10 charges that included conspiracy to sex traffic minors, sex trafficking of minors, attempted sex trafficking of minors, and sex trafficking-obstruction set off a torrent of allegations against then GOP party chair Jennifer Carnahan, who was reportedly close friends with Lazzaro, accusing her of creating a toxic environment within the Minnesota GOP. The upheaval led to Carnahan’s resignation a week after Lazzaro’s indictment.
Lazzaro has remained in custody since his arrest last August. Castro Medina is not in custody but remains under supervision and is working to turn her life around, her attorney told KARE 11 following the guilty plea.
– – –
Minnesota Crime Watch & Information publishes news, info and commentary about crime, public safety and livability issues in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota.