A civil lawsuit filed Tuesday against Anton "Tony" Lazzaro accuses the well-connected Minnesota GOP strategist of repeatedly preying upon a 16-year-old girl, then offering $1,000 in hush money to the victim's father.
The suit – brought on behalf of the teenager identified as Minor Doe, and her family by Jeff Anderson & Associates – describes the 30-year-old Lazzaro as the "ringleader" of a sex trafficking operation.
He "used his power, wealth, influence, connections, and resources to recruit children as part of a predatory enterprise of perversion wherein he used whatever means he could to gain their trust so that he could prey on them," the suit reads. "When it became clear that Lazzaro had committed serious crimes, he attempted to coerce his victims and their families into keeping silent."
The civil suit asks for a jury trial, with damages to be determined.
"It's really scary, what they did and tried to do here," attorney Jeff Anderson said at a Tuesday morning news conference.
It's the latest development in the allegations against and surrounding Lazzaro, a wealthy PAC founder and self-described entrepreneur whose close relationship with Jennifer Carnahan led to her ouster as head of the Minnesota GOP. Lazzaro was indicted last month by a federal grand jury on 10 counts related to child sex trafficking. He's accused of recruiting six children to engage in sex acts for money between May and December of 2020. Authorities have said they believe there may be additional victims.
A 19-year-old University of St. Thomas student, Gisela Medina, is listed as a co-defendant, and was charged with seven counts related to child sex trafficking.
Both are named in the newly filed civil lawsuit (though only Lazzaro is listed as a defendant), which says Medina and Lazzaro initially met on a "sugar dating" site, and in 2020 struck up an arrangement: She would find him young women and teens then introduce them to Lazzaro, in exchange for money and gifts.
The lawsuit alleges Medina and Minor Doe were friends in 2018, when Doe was 14 years old. In May 2020, Medina introduced the teen to Lazzaro, and the duo began "grooming" her as part of the sex trafficking operation, the suit claims.
Lazzaro arranged for a car to bring Minor Doe to his luxury Minneapolis condo "on several occasions" over the following two months, and during that time committed "multiple commercial sex acts" against her, the civil lawsuit reads.
Things changed in July 2020, the Minor Doe published a social media post that named Lazzaro, the suit says. This led to criminal defense attorneys, on behalf of Lazzaro, reaching out to Doe's father on July 29, offering hush money in exchange for silence under a non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreement, according to the civil suit. (A copy of the proposed agreement can be found here.)
The proposed agreement admits Lazzaro and the victim had a "consensual interaction in the recent past," and offered $1,000 if Doe and her family agreed not to talk about the nature of the interaction publicly, according to the civil lawsuit.
The attorneys also threatened legal action over the posts, whether they were true or not, the suit alleges.
This, Anderson explained Tuesday, led to the parents reaching out to Jeff Anderson & Associates. The law firm then connected them to the appropriate law enforcement. Anderson praised Doe and her parents, saying they "had enough courage ... to do something about it and to make the call."
Anderson said there is "more to come" in the future regarding what exactly was done and by whom. He also urged anyone who has any more information, or who was trafficked themselves, to contact the U.S. Attorney's Office.