Lazzaro trial: Accused of sex trafficking, Lazzaro takes stand in defense
MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Anton "Tony" Lazzaro took the stand in his own defense Tuesday afternoon, as his federal trial on sex trafficking charges nears an end.
The 32-year-old detailed his life growing up in Los Angeles, where his mother was a professor of Italian literature at University of Southern California and where his grandfather was a longtime administrator.
Lazzaro is charged with sex trafficking of minors, which are those under 18. He’s also charged with conspiracy to sex traffic.
One of the alleged victims was 15 at the time, the other four were 16. All five testified that they were only interested in the money and gifts Lazzaro gave them and would not have had sex with him otherwise.
During testimony Tuesday, Lazzaro revealed that he was conceived through in vitro fertilization, which is why he and his brother were raised by a single mother.
He left L.A. to attend Brigham Young University (BYU), and it was there, he testified, that he began making money on the internet.
"I developed a way to drive internet traffic to promotional offers and get paid," adding that this was around 2009, before many corporations understood the market. "I remember I made a low six figure amount my first year when I was in college."
Leaving BYU after about a year or so, he returned to L.A. and continued being an entrepreneur, before moving to Rapid City, South Dakota, with a girlfriend who’d gotten a job there.
When that relationship ended, he moved to Minneapolis, having become a Vikings fan as a kid.
In 2023, he signed up for Seeking Arrangements, a site billed as "sugar dating" that has since shortened its name to Seeking.com.
He defended the site as getting a bad reputation because "it’s really just a dating site."
While "sugar dating" involves wealthier older men looking for attractive younger women, Lazzaro said it’s a lot like other dating sites and apps, "except it is niche oriented to people who are wealthy and attractive."
It was through this site that he connected with Gisela Castro Medina in May of 2020, when she was finishing her senior year in high school. They met in person a few days later and she introduced Lazzaro to another friend.
Lazzaro testified that after an initial sexual encounter with Castro Medina, they quickly became close friends, almost a brother-sister relationship. But he did begin a physical relationship with Castro Medina’s friend, while giving her gifts and money.
He testified that he then began asking Castro Medina to introduce him to more of her friends on Snapchat, he said "there was never, even an agreement to become like my recruiter. That term was never used."
But as she did introduce him to more girls, who then came to his condo and had sex with him, he kept being generous with gifts and cash.
He claimed this was all unique to the pandemic, when you couldn’t go to restaurants and bars on dates.
"I very quickly got the reputation," he testified, "that I was very liberal with the amount of money I would give to people for nothing."
"Did you suggest to them that sexual activity was expected? No. These payments, did you see them as payments for sexual activity? Absolutely not."