Aug. 9 (UPI) — A former activist for Republican Party activities in Minnesota was sentenced to 21 years in prison Wednesday after he was convicted of sex trafficking charges involving underage girls.
Anton “Tony” Lazzaro, 32, also was sentenced to five years of supervised release for orchestrating the sex traffic conspiracy, which included at one point picking up a group of 14-year-old and 15-year-old girls from a slumber party, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Minnesota.
“Mr. Lazzaro targeted, manipulated, and sexually exploited young and vulnerable girls for his own gain without regard for their age or safety,” Alvin M. Winston Sr., the FBI special agent-in-charge, said in a statement.
“Today’s sentencing sends a strong message that those who commit such heinous crimes will be held accountable. The FBI prioritizes crimes of victimization and will leave no stone unturned to protect the vulnerable and bring every perpetrator to justice.”
Authorities said Lazzaro conspired with Gisela Castro Medina, a 21-year-old woman he met on the “sugar daddy” website Seeking Arrangements in 2020. Castro Medina has pleaded guilty for her role in the conspiracy and is scheduled to be sentenced in September.
The Republican operative invited Castro Medina and a minor victim to his condo at the Hotel Ivy in Minneapolis, officials said, adding that Castro Medina told Lazzaro that the minor victim was only 16 years old before arriving.
Lazzaro plied Castro Medina and the minor girl with alcohol and paid them $600 to engage in sex acts with him, prosecutors said. He would pay the minor teen in cash to engage in sex acts with her on other occasions, with Castro Medina taking half of each payment.
In total, Castro Medina made more than $50,000. Lazzaro instructed Castro Medina to find him “broken girls” and would specify certain skin colors, petite body types and other physical features.
Castro Medina would find social media accounts for potential targets from her school and friend networks and would send photos of them to Lazzaro on encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp and Signal. If Lazzaro approved of the girls, Castro Medina would send him their contact information.
Lazzaro also would provide the young girls with vaping cartridges, food, smartphones and high-end purses, as well as the emergency contraceptive Plan B. Parents of victims have testified that his actions made their daughters suicidal.
According to CBS News, Lazzarro founded the Big Tent Republicans political action committee and has given about $150,0000 to members of the party in the state. He has been pictured with stars of the party, including former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence.
“I cannot stress this enough … the victims in this case were not women disguised as girls. They were children,” U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz said during the sentencing, according to KARE.
“Mr. Lazzaro has not shown a shred of remorse for the lifetime of pain he inflicted just so he could enjoy a few minutes of sex.”