Lawsuit: GOP donor used wealth, political connections to sex traffic teen

Minnesota GOP donor Anton Lazzaro used his wealth and political connections to coerce a 16-year-old into sex and then attempted to pay her family for their silence, according to allegations in a new lawsuit filed Tuesday.

Jeff Anderson, a St. Paul-based attorney well-known for suing the Catholic Church for child abuse, announced the lawsuit at a news conference, calling 30-year-old Lazzaro an audacious predator who served as “ringmaster” of the sex-trafficking enterprise. The girl posted allegations about Lazzaro on social media in July 2020, and Lazzaro proposed paying her and her parents $1,000 in “hush money” to sign a nondisclosure agreement, according to the lawsuit.

Instead, the family reached out to Anderson’s firm, which helped them report the behavior to law enforcement, said Anderson.

“How many more are there out there that have been silenced and intimidated?” said Anderson. “It’s really scary what they did and tried to do here.”

Lazzaro is being held in jail while facing a 10-count federal indictment alleging he paid underage girls — some as young as 15 — for sex in cash, and groomed them with presents such as a Prada purse, alcohol, vape pens and cellphones. Anderson praised the Minnesota U.S. Attorney’s Office for investigating and charging Lazzaro, and asked any other victims to come forward to law enforcement.

Lazzaro’s attorney, Zachary Lee Newland, has maintained his client’s innocence in criminal proceedings, dismissing the allegations as anonymous and without merit.

“The individuals who filed this lawsuit today showed the public that their true motivation is greed,” said Newland in a statement Tuesday.

Newland said the family behind the lawsuit “tried to extort” Lazzaro in 2020. “Mr. Lazzaro refused to be extorted then and refuses to be extorted today.”

The lawsuit describes Lazzaro as a “politically connected and wealthy adult,” citing his public friendship with Jennifer Carnahan, who resigned from her post as GOP chairwoman after charges against Lazzaro went public.

“Lazzaro often flaunted his wealth and high-powered political connections to the public and on social media,” the complaint states. “For example, Lazzaro posted pictures of himself carrying tens of thousands of dollars in cash, sitting atop a private jet, and driving in his Ferrari. Lazzaro’s image could be found online next to several noteworthy politicians, political figures, and prominent members of the media.”

Using this power, Lazzaro allegedly recruited 19-year-old Gisela Medina, the since-ousted chair of the University of St. Thomas College Republicans, to find underage girls and solicit them “for his perverse and predatory pleasure” in exchange for money and gifts, according to Anderson. Medina is charged as Lazzaro’s co-conspirator in the criminal case.

After the teenager posted allegations about Lazzaro on social media, two St. Paul-based lawyers acting on behalf of Lazzaro tried to “silence this victim and this family” through money and threats of a lawsuit for defamation, said Anderson.

The proposed nondisclosure agreement admits “Mr. Lazzaro and [the teenager] had a consensual interaction in the recent past,” he said.

Lazzaro’s behavior inflicted psychological trauma on the unnamed teen and her family and they “will continue to incur expenses for medical and psychological treatment, therapy and counseling,” according to the lawsuit.

“Tony Lazzaro and Gisela Medina — they stole her freedom for profit,” said Stacey Benson, another attorney for Anderson’s firm.

“And hopefully through this process, [she] can get and recover the power and the control that was stolen from her as a child.”

Andy Mannix • 612-673-4036

rn% endblock %","start":"https://users.startribune.com/placement/1/environment/3/limit-signup-optimizely/start"},{"id":"limit-signup","count":12,"action":"ignore","mute":true,"action_config":"template":"% extends "grid" %rnrn% block heading_text %Youu2019ve read your 10 free articles for this 30 day period. Sign up now for local coverage you wonu2019t find anywhere else, special sections and your favorite columnists. StarTribune puts Minnesota and the world right at your fingertips. % endblock %rnrn% block last %rn parent() rn# limit Krux pixel from https://www.squishlist.com/strib/customshop/328/ #rnrnrn% endblock %","start":"https://users.startribune.com/placement/1/environment/3/limit-signup/start"},"id":"meter-desktop-331","count":10,"action":"ignore","mute":false,"action_config":false,"start":"https://users.startribune.com/placement/1/environment/3/meter-desktop-331/start","id":"PDA991499opt","count":9,"action":"ignore","mute":true,"action_config":false,"start":"https://users.startribune.com/placement/1/environment/3/PDA991499opt/start","id":"limit","count":8,"action":"inject","mute":false,"action_config":"template":"

rnrnrnrn

rn

rn

rn rn

rn t

rn SUBSCRIBErn Already a subscriber? Log in.rn

rn

All Star Tribune readers without a Digital Access subscription are given a limited number of complimentary articles every 30 days. Once the article limit is reached we ask readers to purchase a subscription including Digital Access to continue reading. Digital Access is included in all multi-day paper home delivery, Sunday + Digital, and Premium Digital Access subscriptions. After the 1 month Premium Digital Access introductory period you will be charged at a rate of $14.99 per month. You can see all subscription options or login to an existing subscription herern

rn rn

rn

rn

rn

rn

rn","start":"https://users.startribune.com/placement/1/environment/3/limit/start"},{"id":"nag","count":7,"action":"lightbox","mute":true,"action_config":{"height":null,"width":"630px","redirect_on_close":null,"template":"% extends "shell" %rnrn% block substyles %rn

rn% endblock %rnrn% block page %rn#rnrn limit - count - 1 rnrn form.flow_form_open(nextAction: 'firstSlide', null, null, '_top') rn form.btn('Save Now') rn form.flow_form_close() rnrn

rnrnrnu2022 rnrnrnrn#rn

rn

rn

You have limit - count - 1 articles left

rn

rn rn u00a0u00a0u2022u00a0u00a0rn rn

rn

rn

rn

rn Save More Todayrn

Over 70% off!

rn

rn

rn

rn

99u00a2 for first 4 weeks

rn form.flow_form_open(nextAction: 'firstSlide', null, null, '_top') rn form.button('Save Now', 'btn nag-btn') rn form.flow_form_close() rn

rn

rn% endblock %rnrn% block last %rn parent() rnrn% endblock %"},"start":"https://users.startribune.com/placement/1/environment/3/nag/start"},"id":"x","count":4,"action":"ignore","mute":true,"action_config":false,"start":"https://users.startribune.com/placement/1/environment/3/x/start","id":"multi-start","count":3,"action":"fly_in","mute":true,"action_config":"location":"bottom_left","slide_direction":"bottom","group_id":null,"display_delay":"0","collapse_delay":"10","template":"

rn

rn

rn

rn u00d7rn

rn

rn

From just

rn

$3.79 99u00a2 a week

rn Save nowrn

rn

rn

","start":"https://users.startribune.com/placement/1/environment/3/multi-start/start"]};