Crime, Law and Justice

Minnesota woman arrested on sex trafficking allegations; linked to earlier indictment

A 19-year-old Minnesota woman has been arrested on allegations she was part of a conspiracy to commit sex trafficking — a case that's been linked to the federal indictment of a Minnesota Republican Party donor and activist earlier this week.

Gisela Castro Medina was arrested Thursday in Florida, where jail and sheriff's office records said she was wanted on trafficking charges from Minnesota.

The Minnesota College Republicans identified Medina as chair of the group's chapter at the University of St. Thomas, and said they have "cut all ties with her effective immediately."

They — as well as the state GOP — linked Medina to trafficking charges filed earlier this week against Anton "Tony" Lazzaro.

"The arrest and charges involving (Medina), in conjunction with Thursday's arrest and sex trafficking charges of (Lazzaro) are heinous and disturbing. Conviction of these charges warrants punishment to the fullest extent of the law and we fully anticipate justice will be served," Republican Party of Minnesota Chair Jennifer Carnahan said in a news release.

It was unclear if Medina has an attorney. Lazzaro's attorney has said his client is being falsely accused and did not commit the crimes he's charged with.

The federal indictment, unsealed Thursday, alleges 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 had indicated a second person faced charges but that second name was redacted. Attempts to contact the U.S. Attorney's Office for comment on Saturday were not successful.

Lazzaro remained in the Sherburne County Jail on Saturday, ahead of a detention hearing on Monday. It was unclear where Medina was being held.

Nia Moore, chair of the Minnesota College Republicans, told MPR News on Saturday that Medina had just recently been selected as the chair of the St. Thomas chapter. The chapter had been inactive due to the pandemic and students taking remote classes.

Medina was the only person interested in becoming the chair and had no opposition, Moore said, so the position was automatically hers. Other than a few conversations of issues the chapter would focus on, Moore said there had been no direct activity or involvement by Medina with the chapter.

The University of St. Thomas issued a statement Saturday, saying “the details of these allegations are very disturbing and saddening. St. Thomas condemns these actions and we pray for the victims. Under our student code of conduct, St. Thomas students charged with a felony will be interim suspended pending further proceedings.” 

Carnahan, the state GOP chair, has faced heightened scrutiny in the wake of the arrests. Multiple people who have worked for or closely with the Republican Party told MPR News that Lazzaro and Carnahan have been close friends for years.

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