Anton Lazzaro, a former Minnesota GOP political operative, was found guilty of child sex trafficking charges Friday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis. File Photo by Tony Webster/Wikimedia Commons
April 1 (UPI) -- A federal jury in Minnesota has found Anton Lazzaro, a former Republican Party donor and political strategist, guilty on sex trafficking charges involving a pair of teenagers.
Prosecutors called the case against Lazzaro "the face of modern-day sex trafficking," after his conviction on conspiring to recruit and pay 15-year-old and 16-year-old girls for sex.
Lazzaro, 32, who once cut a high-profile figure as a Minnesota GOP political operative and associate of then-state party chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan, was found guilty on all counts.
During the trial, Lazzaro admitted he had sex with all the underage girls, but denied paying for or recruiting them.
Prosecutors argued he met co-defendant Gisela Castro Medina, 21, on a website connecting wealthy men with younger partners and that he then paid her to recruit five alleged underage victims, all of whom testified against him during the trial.
Medina has already pleaded guilty and is due to be sentenced in August.
Investigators contended the plot took place in 2020, starting in May in a condominium in downtown Minneapolis. FBI officers raided the condo in December of that year.
The jury deliberated for only two hours before making a decision.
"Anton Lazzaro is a danger to every family with a daughter and to everyone who believes in common decency," Assistant U.S. Attorney Melinda Williams told reporters following the verdict.
A sentencing date has not yet been set but Lazzaro faces a mandatory 10-year minimum sentence.
Lazzaro intends to appeal and "trusts he will be vindicated," his spokesperson, Stacy Bettison, said after the verdict.