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Gisela Medina, 19, charged as co-defendant with Anton Lazzaro in child sex trafficking case

She is facing seven counts related to sex trafficking of a minor.
Anton Lazzaro and Gisela Medina.

The former chair of a Minnesota college's Republican group and colleague of indicted GOP strategist Anton Lazzaro was charged Monday with seven crimes related to child sex trafficking.

Gisela Medina made her first federal court appearance in a Florida courtroom at 2 p.m. Monday, where for the first time authorities publicly detailed the charges against her. Medina, 19, is listed with the recently indicted Lazzaro as a co-defendant in the case being brought by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

She's accused of working hand-in-hand with the well-connected Minnesota Republican operative to traffic five girls, all under the age of 18, "to engage in a commercial sex act" in Minnesota between May and October of 2020.

Medina is charged five counts of child sex trafficking, one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors, and one count of obstruction related to sex trafficking. The latter crime occurred in March of this year, according to the indictment.

Medina had been arrested in Florida Thursday, though her name remained blacked out on the charges against Lazzaro until the indictment was unsealed Monday afternoon. She had recently been named chair of the Minnesota College Republicans' University of St. Thomas chapter. On Saturday, the group cut ties with Medina following the news of her arrest, saying it was "absolutely disgusted" by the allegations.

The indictment does not explain exactly how Medina and Lazzaro, 30, know each other, nor does it reveal how prosecutors believe the duo operated together. However, Medina's Instagram included a now-deleted photo of the two sitting next to each other as part of a larger group. She also listed MN Property Management as an employer on Facebook, a company for which Lazzaro is listed as the registered agent, according to Minnesota business records.

Medina did not enter a plea Monday. She is being transported to Minnesota.

Lazzaro is a well-known name within the Minnesota GOP and nationally. In 2018 he founded the Big Tent Republicans PAC, and on his website touts appearances on various conservative news channels. Lazzaro identified himself in 2020 as the campaign manager for 5th District Republican candidate Lacy Johnson, though Johnson's attorney has since disputed that particular title and role.

Lazzaro has donated to Republican candidates, PACs or parties dozens of times over the past decade, according to federal records, including:

  • $5,900 this year alone to Friends of Hagedorn
  • More than $10,000 since Jan. 1, 2021, to the Republican Party of Minnesota
  • At least $3,000 to Trump Victory PAC
  • Ahead of the 2020 election, donations to Republican candidates Jason Lewis, Tom Emmer and Michelle Fischbach

But it is his apparently strong relationship with Minnesota GOP chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan and her husband, U.S. Rep Jim Hagedorn, that has most roiled the political waters. Lazzaro was involved in Carnahan's campaign to become state party chair. They have apparently remained close friends, hosting a handful of podcasts together in 2019 and 2020, and with Lazzaro a guest at Carnahan and Hagedorn's wedding in 2018.

Carnahan is facing calls to resign from members of her own party, though fended off the criticism by describing the increasing pressure as a coup.

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