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Anton Lazzaro, former GOP activist, sentenced to 21 years in prison for sex trafficking | #childpredator | #kidsaftey | #childsaftey

Businessman and former Republican activist Anton Lazzaro was sentenced Wednesday to 21 years in prison on sex trafficking charges involving five 15- to 16-year old girls he paid to have sex with him.

Lazzaro, 32, was labeled a sexual predator in a brief submitted by prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Minneapolis, who had asked U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz to sentence Lazzaro to 30 years in prison. His attorney had asked for a 10-year sentence, the mandatory minimum.

Lazzaro was convicted after a jury trial in March of both conspiracy and five separate counts of recruiting and paying the underage girls for sex. He claimed during the trial and in a post-trial brief submitted by his attorneys that the cash outlays he made were gifts, not payments, and that the girls were eager to have sex.

During the trial, prosecutors introduced evidence that Lazzaro plied the girls with liquor before having sex with them, and in one instance had sex with a girl who had passed out from drinking too much alcohol.

Federal prosecutors presented evidence at trial that Lazzaro paid Gisela Castro Medina, then an 18-year-old University of St. Thomas student, to recruit other teen victims. Castro Medina, now 21, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and obstruction charges and testified against Lazzaro at his trial. She will be sentenced Sept. 5.

Lazzaro’s 2021 arrest proved an embarrassment for the Minnesota Republican Party, for which he had become a major donor. Jennifer Carnahan, who had close ties to Lazzaro but denied any knowledge of his criminal activities, stepped down as state GOP chair a week after his arrest.

In their brief, prosecutors noted that Lazzaro praised and emulated Jeffrey Epstein, the New York financier and convicted sex offender who was charged with trafficking minors before he died by suicide in 2019.

This is a developing story. Check back with startribune.com for further details.

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