Woman charged in Lazzaro sex trafficking ring pleads guilty

Gisela Castro Medina and Tony Lazzaro (FOX 9)

The woman charged alongside Minnesota GOP strategist Anton "Tony" Lazzaro on federal sex trafficking charges pled guilty on Monday and is expected to testify at Lazzaro's trial.

Federal prosecutors say 20-year-old Gisela Castro Medina pleaded guilty to conspiring with Lazzaro to recruit and solicit six minors for prostitution. Castro Medina was arrested in Florida in the weeks after Lazzaro's indictment.

Prosecutors say Castro Medina met Lazzaro on "Seeking Arrangements" – a "sugar daddy" website that is used by men to solicit sexual relationships with typically younger women in exchange for money and other favors.

According to the criminal complaint, Lazzaro started interacting with Castro Medina and a minor victim on the site, ultimately inviting them to his condo in Minneapolis in May 2020 where prosecutors say he gave them alcohol and paid for sex acts.

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Federal authorities say Lazzaro continued to see the minor victim, with Castro Medina taking a cut of the payments Lazzaro made.

Court documents allege Lazzaro continued to interact with Castro Medina, who used social media, her school, and social networks to recruit other minor girls for Lazzaro.

"Castro Medina would show Lazzaro photographs of minor girls and if Lazzaro ‘approved’ Castro Medina would reach out to the minor and provide the minor’s contact information to Lazzaro," the U.S. Attorney Office says in a media release. "Castro Medina told the minors that Lazzaro was an older guy with a lot of money and that he wanted to be a sugar daddy to younger girls."

Castro Medina told authorities that Lazzaro would give the minor girls money, alcohol, vaping cartridges, high-end purses, phones, and other gifts as he carried on these illegal arrangements.

Castro Medina pleaded guilty Monday to a count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors and a count of obstruction for allegedly pressuring a 15-year-old victim from speaking to police about the sex trafficking ring.

Lazzaro was indicted in August 2021 for the alleged sex trafficking ring between May 2020 and December of the same year. At the time, Lazzaro was a major donor to the Minnesota GOP and a friend of then-GOP Chair Jennifer Carnahan. Lazzaro's arrest set in motion controversy and criticism that led to Carnahan's resignation as chairwoman for the GOP. Carnahan sued the Republican Party of Minnesota just last week claiming "continued disparagement" by Republican officials has cost her new work opportunities.

Lazzaro is set to go to trial for the case in March. Under her plea agreement, Castro Medina plans to testify for the prosecution against Lazzaro.