Republican donor arrested on child sex trafficking charges in Minneapolis

Lazzaro was taken into custody by FBI agents Thursday.

Background: Anton Lazzaro/Twitter. Right: Anton Lazzaro mugshot/Sherburne County Jail

Thirty-year-old Anton Lazzaro of Minneapolis was arrested and indicted on federal sex trafficking charges Thursday for allegedly recruiting six minor victims to engage in commercial sex acts, authorities announced.

Lazzaro has donated more than $150,000 to Republican candidates and causes across Minnesota and was the campaign manager for Republican Lacy Johnson’s unsuccessful bid against Rep. Ilhan Omar in 2020. According to MPR, he also helped elect Jennifer Carnahan to the chairmanship of the Minnesota GOP.

An indictment unsealed in federal court Thursday accuses Lazzaro of conspiring with others to recruit and solicit six minor victims for commercial sex acts between May and December of last year. The name of his alleged co-conspirator is redacted in the indictment.

Lazzaro was taken into custody by FBI agents and made his initial appearance in U.S. District Court before Magistrate Judge Becky Thorson. According to the Daily Beast, Thorson has ordered Lazzaro to remain jailed until a court hearing next week at the request of the victims, who “asked for additional protection from Lazzaro.”

Authorities seized Lazzaro’s $900,000 downtown Minneapolis condo, $370,000 in cash, a 2010 Ferrari convertible, 12 cellphones, and six computers, according to the indictment.

State Sen. Karin Housley said she will donate the campaign contributions she received from Lazzaro to the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota.

“These allegations are disturbing and troubling, and they make my heart ache for the victims of such a horrifying crime,” she said.

U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, called the news “deeply disturbing” and donated money he received from Lazzaro to the Alexandra House and Anna Marie’s Alliance.

In a statement provided to MPR, Lazzaro’s defense attorney denied the allegations and said the federal government was abusing its power.

Lazzaro is the founder of the Big Tent Republicans PAC and sought to make room for “more modernized views” in the GOP.

According to an August 2020 interview with the Star Tribune, Lazzaro “believes in LGBT rights and does not oppose the right to abortion.”

He also called Sen. Josh Hawley “pathetic” for “going after” the porn industry.

Authorities believe there may be additional victims of the alleged conduct and asked anyone with information to call the FBI Minneapolis Division at 763-569-8000.