Anton Lazzaro trial: Lazzaro allegedly referenced Jeffrey Epstein in text messages

Surprise evidence in the federal sex trafficking trial of Anton Lazzaro was introduced by prosecutors as they began cross-examining the 32-year-old, during his second day on the witness stand in his own defense.

Lazzaro, 32, is charged with sex trafficking of minors.  Five alleged victims under 18 testified against him, saying they were interested in meeting him only because of the promise of gifts, cash and alcohol.  They testified they had sex with Lazzaro only because he would pay them.

Lazzaro repeatedly denied those claims while answering very direct questions by a prosecutor, who time and again asked Lazzaro about paying the teen girls for sex.

"Specifically, you liked 15 and 16-year-old girls, is that right?" prosecutors questioned. "No, that’s not right," he replied.

"You liked 15 and 16-year-old girls sexually?"

"No," he reasserted.

Lazzaro admitted to having sex with the five alleged victims and admitted to giving them gifts and hundreds of dollars in cash.  He insisted they were not connected.

"I did not pay them," he testified. "I gave them gifts that they asked for."

He also said that Gisela Castro Medina, who pled guilty in December and testified against Lazzaro in exchange for leniency, did not act as a recruiter for him.

"I never remember any conversation ever about her being a recruiter," Lazzaro said.

Castro Medina testified that she would reach out to girls on Snapchat and tell them her Sugar Daddy wanted to meet them, sometimes following that up with a picture of a shirtless Lazzaro holding a large stack of money.

"I would not call her a recruiter," he said. "She was a friend who had a lot of hot friends."

The new evidence came from a tip that prosecutors received Tuesday night from a former Lazzaro business associate in Texas.  Federal agents retrieved his phone and extracted records of messages between the man and Lazzaro.

In one of the exchanges, Lazzaro refers to using a "recruiter."

Other messages included pictures and videos of the alleged victims drinking and dancing at his Minneapolis condominium.  Some of the alleged victims testified Lazzaro got them very drunk.

Another text exchange showed Lazzaro sent a message saying "poor Jeff," followed by another saying "RIP my brother" next to a blurry picture prosecutors believe is Jeffrey Epstein, a notorious sex trafficker of teenage girls.  The messages were sent on the one-year anniversary of Epstein’s death.

Lazzaro said he didn’t remember these, but that he was not pro-Epstein, but rather anti-government, referring to conspiracy theories about how Epstein died.

Closing arguments in the trial could come as soon as Thursday.