The 19-year-old chairwoman of the University of St. Thomas College Republicans has been arrested in Florida on allegations she aided a prominent Minnesota GOP activist in recruiting and trafficking minors for sex, according to a news release and jail records.
The Minnesota College Republicans said in a news release Saturday that Gisela Castro Medina was arrested, along with Anton "Tony" Lazzaro, 30, on suspicion of "obstruction of justice, sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of underage victims."
Lazzaro was arrested Thursday and charged with one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors, five counts of sex trafficking of minors, one count of attempted sex trafficking of a minor and three counts of obstruction of justice, the U.S. Attorney's Office said last week.
A second person was listed on Lazzaro's indictment, but that name was redacted. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment.
According to an online log for the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office in Florida's Panhandle, Medina was arrested early Thursday evening in Fort Walton Beach on a charge of being a fugitive from justice. Her last known address was listed on Cretin Avenue in St. Paul, where St. Thomas is located.
The sheriff's site noted that she was a fugitive from the FBI in Minnesota and wanted on conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors.
If she is the second person mentioned in the indictment, Medina would quickly be transferred to federal custody and appear in U.S. District Court in Florida as early as Monday.
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.
"The details of these allegations are very disturbing and saddening," the school's official statement read. "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."
Those proceedings would include a student conduct "process," a spokesman said. He said the conduct process could be delayed pending resolution of the felony charges.
The Minnesota College Republicans said in its statement that Medina had recently assumed the position of chapter chairwoman and had not begun working "in an official capacity" on behalf of the organization.
In a phone call Saturday, state chapter chairwoman Nia Moore said she had only spoken on the phone to Medina, who became chair in the spring, and had never met her in person. She said the party's St. Thomas chapter had not been active because students, including herself, were away from campus and attending classes remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"If I had any idea, she would not have been chair," Moore said.
In its statement, the state chapter said, "Our prayers go out to the victims of Anton Lazzaro and Gisela Medina — we believe you. We stand with you. May justice be served."
According to multiple social media accounts, Medina is a 2020 graduate of Delano High School.
On her LinkedIn page, Medina said she has been a part-time office administrative assistant at MN Property Management since September 2020. Her site said she is studying business administration at St. Thomas and expected to graduate in 2024. Besides listing the College Republicans, she said she was in the prelaw society and the business law club, the film society and the Hispanic Organization for Leadership and Achievement.
At Delano High, she said, she was active in the orchestra, performing arts and was a royalty candidate.
Medina worked for Lazzaro at one of his businesses and they were personal friends, Lazzaro's attorney, Zachary Newland, said Saturday. Lazzaro had interests in real estate and marketing, among other areas, Newland said.
Meanwhile, Lazzaro remains in the Sherburne County jail. His first hearing is set for Monday. Newland said Lazzaro is "absolutely innocent" of the charges and that they intend to take the case to trial.
Lazzaro had close ties to numerous high-ranking Minnesota Republicans, including state party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan, who is married to U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn, R-Minn. Carnahan did not return a call Saturday seeking comment.
From October 2019 until early January 2020, Carnahan and Lazzaro co-hosted the podcast TruthMatters. Carnahan said last week that contributions Lazzaro made to the state party will be given to charity.
Newland said he's seen no indication that federal investigators are pursuing a case against Carnahan.
"Her name has not come up in any of my conversations with the government, and I'm not aware of any allegations whatsoever related to Ms. Carnahan," Newland said.
Thursday's indictment ordered Lazzaro to forfeit numerous items, including "real property" at his Ivy Residences condo in Minneapolis, a 2010 Ferrari convertible and $371,240 in U.S. currency.
A separate court filing in July revealed a far more extensive list of possessions seized from Lazzaro on Dec. 15, including hundreds of gold bars of various weights and dozens more silver bars, also of various weights. Precious coins and currency from around the globe also were seized, according to the filing.
Staff writer John Reinan contributed to this report.
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