ST PAUL, Minn. — A federal lawsuit is being filed Tuesday against businessman and political operative Anton "Tony" Lazzaro, accusing him of entering into a sexual relationship with a minor beginning when she was just 16.
Court documents lay out the allegations against Lazzaro, who is separately charged with 10 federal sex trafficking counts for allegedly recruiting six minors to engage in commercial sex acts. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The lawsuit says Lazzaro's co-defendant, 19-year-old Gisela Castro Medina, began a friendship with the alleged victim in 2018 when she was 14 years old, and introduced her to Lazzaro in 2020 when she was 16. The suit says Lazzaro began grooming the teen, and alleges he would send cars to pick the girl up so the two could engage in sex acts at his residence between May and July of that year.
Attorneys for the family say by doing do, Lazzaro is guilty of recruiting, enticing, harboring, transporting, providing, obtaining, maintaining and soliciting commercial sex acts with a child below the age of 18.
Allegations filed in court documents also accused Lazzaro of attempting to coerce the girl and her family with a non-disclosure agreement. The lawsuit says the teen's father received a phone call on July 29, 2020 from Lazzaro's attorneys, offering $1,000 in exchange for not revealing the alleged sex trafficking operation to authorities. The plaintiffs say during the call, Lazzaro's attorneys accused the girl of "aggressively seeking to defame" their client, and said the relationship between the two was consensual. His attorneys say the teen's father declined the agreement, and instead contacted the authorities.
The lawsuit says the family is seeking damages for pain of body and mind, permanent emotional distress and embarrassment, loss of self-esteem and other conditions.
In response to the lawsuit, Lazzaro's attorney Zachary Newland said in a statement that he believes the motivation behind the lawsuit is "greed."
Lazzaro is scheduled to go on trial on the separate federal criminal charges starting Oct. 18, 2021 at 9 a.m., in the U.S. District Courtroom of Judge Wilhelmina M. Wright.