MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Anton "Tony" Lazzaro called himself an entrepreneur, and his greatest project may have been one of self-invention.
On social media the 30-year-old posed with a roster of Republican politicians, like former President Donald Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence, and U.S. Senator Mitt Romney. He posed shirtless sitting in his red Ferrari, lived in a luxury downtown Minneapolis condo with penthouse views, and flew by private jet. He posted pictures of himself often with young, beautiful women.
It looked good to be Tony Lazzaro. Until it didn’t.
Last December the FBI raided his downtown Minneapolis condo seizing $370,000 in cash, money in ten foreign currencies, nearly a million dollars in precious metals, and more than a dozen cell phones.
Last week, eight months after the initial raid of his condo, federal prosecutors charged Lazzaro with six counts of human sex trafficking a minor.
A search of public records reveals Lazzaro has spent the last 13 years creating eight different companies in marketing, advertising, foreign currency speculation, and political fundraising. Most of the companies appear to be aspirational, existing only on paper or in basic corporate filings.
Lazzaro grew up in a wealthy suburb of Los Angeles, the scion of a successful family. He graduated from Palos Verdes Peninsula High School in Rolling Hills Estates, a wealthy enclave in Los Angeles that has historically skewed conservative. Lazzaro's older brother, Derek, is an attorney.
On his LinkedIn page Lazzaro claims he attended Brigham Young University in Idaho where he was a "Neuro Science, Physics" major.
BYU confirms he attended the university part-time in the fall of 2020 and winter of 2021, but said he was not part of a degree-seeking program.
His grandfather and namesake, Anton Joseph Lazzaro, who died last May at 100, is a legendary administrator at the University of Southern California.
An obituary in the Los Angeles Times details how during his 42-year career at USC the older Lazzaro was responsible for the construction of 132 university buildings, which transformed USC "from a small commuter campus with no clearly defined boundaries to the sprawling bastion of research it is today."
In the profile of his grandfather, the Los Angeles Times quotes Lazzaro’s brother, Derek, who said, "He expected a lot from people. Had very high standards, both in professional life and personal and family life."
"At the same time, he was also forgiving. He told me he hardly ever fired anyone in his whole career," his brother told the Times.
The son of Italian immigrants, his grandfather also served as chief liaison officer with the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, the paper said, "negotiating more than $19 million in agreements that turned USC into a major Olympics game venue."
But Lazarro's grandson appears to have been a different kind of dealmaker altogether.
A P.O. Box CEO
Financial filings show he started HonestForexSignals.com and Forex Globe LLC in 2011, businesses that would provide tips on how to take advantage of signals of potential fluctuations in the foreign currency exchange market, known as FX.
In recent online reviews for HonestForexSignals.com, which no longer exists as a web site, reviewers left comments like, "This unfortunately feels like a scam service," "they are not honest," and "They don’t respond to my emails, and nobody answers the phone when I call."
He is currently listed as the CEO of Wolf Private Trading LLC, which claims to "manage over nine FX-oriented websites and publications, an in-house email list of 375,000+ opt-in/double opt-ins subscribers, and have one of the largest social followings in the industry."
Curiously, it has only a rudimentary website, and little social media presence. Its business address is actually not an office suite, but a post office box at a UPS store in a Palos Verdes strip mall, only a few blocks from where Lazzaro went to high school.
A database for the National Futures Association (NFA), an oversight group for the U.S. derivatives industry, doesn’t show any listing for Lazzaro or any affiliated companies.
Individuals who conduct business in the derivatives industry are required to register with the Commodities Future Trading Commission (CFTC). Lazzaro has no such registration, according to a data base.
A spokesperson for the CFTC said she could not comment on any current or pending investigations, but that "Some of the types of behavior you reference may in certain circumstances require registration with the CFTC.
Business filings show Lazzaro started other companies like Allegiance American Enterprises LLC, which no longer appears to be in operation. Corporate filings describe it variously as an advertising agency and a trading company based in Rolling Hills Estates, California.
Business listings also show Lazzaro is also affiliated with 777 Marketing Group, 21st Promotional Offers LLC, and Wingate Marketing Group LLC.
Those companies no longer appear to be active and list as a business address the same UPS store in Palos Verdes that Lazzaro used for his other businesses.
Lazzaro’s LinkedIn page doesn’t mention any of these businesses.
His profile says he is currently CEO of Gold River Group, LLC, "Servicing over 50 websites owned by Stock, Gold, Commodity, Real Estate, Currency, Bond websites around the world for trading news, signals, etc."
But the website for Gold River Group LLC is also rudimentary with the words "Dedication, Passion, Transparency," in bold letters. It also has a very different description of the company. "We are a team of dedicated professionals serving professionals with the latest proprietary custom marketing and technology solutions," the web site says.
It goes on to say, "We specialize in the Securities, Family Office, Energy, and Political industries." Areas of expertise that have little to do with one another.
Once again, Gold River Group LLC lists the same Palos Verdes post office box as his other companies.
Most of the telephone numbers associated with his businesses have been disconnected, but a few still have a voicemail recording that sounds like Lazzaro, who says, "Please send me a text or email. I prefer that you not leave a voicemail because this phone is not checked routinely."
A Political Animal
It is not clear how, or why, Lazzaro made a segue from foreign currency speculation into GOP politics.
He has made several appearances on cable news to discuss politics, appearances facilitated by a booking agency Lazzaro paid to promote him as a pundit.
Lazzaro is the founder and director of Big Tent Republicans, a political action committee (PAC) with the goal of expanding the reach of the Republican Party.
"We support 100% Republicans who are: Minorities, LGBT, and Female candidates," according to its website. "We do NOT spend generously donated funds on unneeded staff or fundraisers."
The website lists 10 congressional candidates the group has supported including Lacy Johnson who ran unsuccessfully against Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
At several points, Lazzaro described himself as Johnson’s campaign manager, a characterization Johnson has disputed.
But Lazzaro and Johnson's campaign were sued last year by a Georgia firm, LGM Consulting Group, for breaching an agreement and directly soliciting funds from prospective donors.
LGM was hired to provide targeted lists of Republican donors to solicit, but it accused Lazzaro of using that information without their permission and possibly sharing it with a competitor.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Palm Beach County, Florida, is ongoing. Calls to Johnson were not returned.
LGM is run by a GOP political operative, Bryan G. Rudnick. Calls to Rudnick seeking comment were not returned. The group is reportedly raising millions for Republican candidates for the 2022 midterm elections.
In Minneapolis, Lazzaro has lived in a variety of upscale residences. Most recently, The Ivy, where he purchased a 2,208 square foot, two bedroom, two bath, condo in November 2018 for $875,000.
Public records reveal his 2010 Ferrari cost $192,000.