Grand jury indicts Minn. GOP operative on child sex trafficking charges

Published 9:23 pm Thursday, August 12, 2021

By Brian Bakst and Matt Sepic, Minnesota Public Radio News

A federal grand jury in Minnesota has indicted Republican political operative Anton J. Lazzaro on child sex trafficking charges.

Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office allege that Lazzaro, 30, conspired with others to recruit and solicit six people under the age of 18 to engage in commercial sex between May and December of 2020.

The indictment, unsealed Thursday, charges Lazzaro with five counts of sex trafficking of minors, one count of attempted sex trafficking of a minor, one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors and three counts of obstruction.

The name of a second person listed in the indictment is redacted.

A judge ordered Lazzaro jailed pending a detention hearing next Monday. He’s being held in the Sherburne County Jail.

In a statement, defense attorney Zachary Newland said Lazzaro is being falsely accused and did not commit the crimes he’s charged with.

The FBI Minneapolis division said in a tweet Thursday there may be additional alleged victims, and anyone with information should contact investigators at 763-569-8000.

The indictment orders Lazzaro to forfeit $371,240 seized from his home in downtown Minneapolis, as well as the condo itself, a 2010 Ferrari convertible, plus 13 mobile phones, six computers and other electronic items.

Lazzaro has strong connections to prominent Minnesota Republicans and managed the campaign of Republican Lacy Johnson, who made an unsuccessful bid to unseat DFL Congresswoman Ilhan Omar last year.

Pictures posted by Rep. Jim Hagedorn on social media show the two at Minnesota Vikings games, along with the congressman’s wife, Minnesota Republican Party Chair Jennifer Carnahan.

Lazzaro and Carnahan also shared a political podcast. Lazzaro was part of the team that helped Carnahan first win her position at the state party in 2017.

Carnahan, Hagedorn, and Johnson did not respond to requests for comment from MPR News.

Pictures on Lazzaro’s Facebook and Twitter accounts show that he often rubbed elbows with the powerful, including former President Donald Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio among them.

Lazzaro was a hefty donor to Republican Party organizations and candidates.

Since 2014, he contributed more than $78,000 at the state level, much of which went to the Minnesota party, but also to top candidates for office. On the federal level, his nearly $36,000 in donations over the same period went mostly to Hagedorn or political organizations aligned with him. Rep. Tom Emmer’s campaign also received a big check from Lazzaro.

According to his website, Lazzaro is the founder of the Big Tent Republicans political action committee, which aims to broaden the party’s appeal.