University of St. Thomas Minnesota College Republicans chair, Gisela Castro Medina arrested for helping GOP strategist, Anton Lazzaro in sex trafficking of young women.
A 19-year-old Minnesota woman — described as the chairwoman of the University of St. Thomas College Republicans — has been arrested in Florida on allegations she aided a prominent Republican political operative and donor in recruiting and trafficking of minors for sex, according to a news release and jail records.
Gisela Castro Medina, from Minnesota was charged with sex trafficking of a minor, attempt to commit sex trafficking, and obstruction of justice.
The arrest comes just one day after GOP strategist, Anton ‘Tony’ Lazzaro, 30, who Castro Medina is alleged to have been associated with being arrested by the FBI, on Thursday morning on similar charges according to KSTP.
According to the release, Castro Medina was caught, Thursday evening in the Florida panhandle having been labelled a ‘fugitive from justice’.
Castro Medina was booked in Okaloosa County on Thursday evening and released Friday afternoon. Records show that she was transferred and booked into Federal jail in Santa Rosa County, Florida, on Friday afternoon.
College Republicans distance themselves from newly appointed chair
The U.S. Attorney’s Office alleges Lazzaro conspired with another individual (name redacted) to recruit and solicit six people under the age of 18 to engage in commercial sex between May and December of 2020.
Lazzaro’s attorney, Zachary Newland said Lazzaro is being falsely accused and did not commit the crimes he’s charged with.
The University of St. Thomas confirmed that Medina was enrolled as a second-year student and listed as the primary contact for the campus College Republicans club.
Responding to their chairperson’s arrest, the College Republicans released a statement on Saturday.
‘We as an organization are absolutely disgusted by the actions of Ms. Medina, and have cut all ties with her effective immediately,’ Nia Moore, the group’s chair, said in a statement to the Daily Beast.
‘Our prayers go out to the victims of Anton Lazzaro and Gisela Medina—we believe you. We stand with you. May justice be served.’
The entity stressed that Medina had only recently assumed the position of chapter chairwoman and had not begun working ‘in an official capacity’ on behalf of the organization.
Who were the victims and who they funnelled to?
Since deleted Instagram photos show Castro Medina and Lazzaro together at an event in May.
In other social media posts, Castro Medina shared images of herself graduating from school in Minnesota last year in which she describes herself as someone who attends the Catholic University of St. Thomas and working at a property management company.
Other social media posts include Castro Medina stating that she was in the prelaw society and the business law club, the film society and the Hispanic Organization for Leadership and Achievement.
Authorities believe there may several victims, but to date have declined to offer specifics on their case against Lazzaro, the ages of his victims, or how the allegations came to light.
According to investigators, Lazzaro conspired with Castro Medina to recruit and solicit minors for sex from May through December 2020.
The 30 year old Republican strategist was taken into custody by FBI agents on Thursday and made his initial appearance in United States District Court before Magistrate Judge Becky Thorson.
The GOP strategist is being held at Sherburne County Jail.
He will remain in custody pending a formal detention hearing on Monday.
Thorson said the decision to keep Lazarro in custody stemmed from victims wanting additional protection from him, the Daily Beast reported.
‘It’s their strong wish that the United States proceed with a recommendation of detention,’ Thorson said.
It is believed Castro Medina is the second person mentioned in the filed indictment against Lazarro, whose name remains redacted. Castro Medina was expected to be transferred to federal custody and appear in U.S. District Court in Florida as early as Monday according to the Star Tribune.
Officials raided Lazzaro’s luxury downtown Minneapolis condo last December seeking evidence regarding a person he brought into his residence.
Under the search warrant they obtained Lazzaro’s bank records and video surveillance footage from the building a week before the raid.
Lazzaro confirmed last month that his residence had been searched and claimed that ‘someone made a false accusation against me’.
‘There’s no charges, no case, nothing political,’ Lazarro explained.
Republican with modernized views
His attorney Zachary Newland has previously said: ‘We look forward to clearing Mr. Lazzaro’s name… I think he’s innocent. They don’t have a provable case here.’
He continued saying: the ‘matter was regarding a totally unrelated incident that’s now almost resolved, essentially.’
In 2020, Lazarro had served as the campaign manager for GOP candidate Lacy Johnson, whose bid to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar last year was unsuccessful.
Johnson claimed that Lazarro never told him about the raid or discussed his dating/personal life.
‘I don’t know that side of Tony. He’s young, he’s got money, and… that tends to attract females,’ Johnson said.
Pictures on Lazzaro’s Facebook and Twitter accounts show him with prominent Republican politicians, including former President Donald Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Lazarro’s political action committee has funneled over $22,000 to political entities in California, Minnesota, Michigan and New Mexico.
He has categorized himself as a ‘next-generation Republican’ who has ‘more modernized views’ and claims his PAC is looking to ‘redefine the Republican Party specifically to minority, LGBT, and women’ who have been neglected by the party.
On his personal website, Lazarro is pictured alongside former president Donald Trump and former vice president Mike Pence.
Fallout within Minnesota GOP
On his social media accounts, he posted photos of himself sitting on private jets, waving large sums of cash, and driving shirtless in a Ferrari.
Court records show that agents seized his 2010 convertible Ferrari, $371,240 cash together with gold bullion worth more than $931,000 together with and a similar level of silver.
Authorities also found 13 phones including at least one which whose data was designed to be wiped quickly with just a single swipe.
Lazzaro’s indictment has sparked huge controversy within the Minnesota GOP, with the political operative a close friend and donor of Minnesota GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan, who is now facing calls to resign.