St. Paul Woman Pleads Guilty to Child Sex Trafficking Conspiracy
MINNEAPOLIS – A St. Paul woman has pleaded guilty to her role in a sex trafficking conspiracy after recruiting six minor victims to engage in commercial sex acts, announced United States Attorney Andrew M. Luger.
According to court documents, from May 2020 through December 2020, Gisela Castro Medina, 20, conspired with co-defendant Anton Joseph Lazzaro, 32, to recruit and solicit six minor victims to engage in commercial sex acts.
According to court documents, in May 2020, Castro Medina met Lazzaro through the Seeking Arrangements website, which is known as a “sugar daddy” website. Lazzaro began communicating with Castro Medina and a minor victim and invited them to his condo at the Hotel Ivy in Minneapolis. Before arriving at the Hotel Ivy, Castro Medina told Lazzaro that the minor victim was only 16 years old. Lazzaro provided Castro Medina and the minor victim with alcohol and paid them $600 for commercial sex acts with him. Lazzaro continued to engage in commercial sexual activity with the minor victim and, on each occasion, Lazzaro paid her in the form of an envelope of cash. Castro Medina took half of each cash payment.
According to court documents, Castro Medina and Lazzaro continued to communicate via Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Signal. Lazzaro directed Castro Medina to use WhatsApp and eventually Signal because of the applications’ encryption and deletion features. Castro Medina used social media and her school, friend, and community networks to identify other minor girls for Lazzaro. Castro Medina would show Lazzaro photographs of minor girls and if Lazzaro “approved” Castro Medina would reach out to the minor and provide the minor’s contact information to Lazzaro. Castro Medina told the minors that Lazzaro was an older guy with a lot of money, and that he wanted to be a sugar daddy to younger girls.
Castro Medina admitted that, at the time of recruitment, she knew that the victims were minors and that Lazzaro paid the minor victims money in exchange for sex acts. Castro Medina also admitted that Lazzaro provided the minor victims with alcohol, vaping cartridges, food, smartphones, high-end purses, rooms in the Hotel Ivy, and transportation. For her role of identifying, recruiting, and introducing minors, Lazzaro compensated Castro Medina with cash and Venmo payments, as well as rent and utility payments for her apartment, tuition payments to the University of St. Thomas, car payments, travel expenses, and other items.
According to court documents, Castro Medina and Lazzaro discussed which of the minor victims spoke to law enforcement following the execution of federal search warrants in December 2020. Castro Medina admitted that in March 2021, she and Lazzaro aided and abetted one another to obstruct law enforcement by agreeing to pay off a 15-year-old victim to prevent her from talking to law enforcement about engaging in commercial sex with Lazzaro. Castro Medina picked up the minor victim at her place of employment, drove the minor victim around in her Mini Cooper, and provided her with hundreds of dollars in cash, gift cards, vapes, and alcohol from Lazzaro. Castro Medina also told the minor victim not to text Lazzaro anymore.
Castro Medina pleaded guilty today before Chief Judge Patrick J. Schiltz to one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors and one count of obstruction. A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.
This case is the result of a joint investigation by the FBI and the Minnesota Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force – led by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, with assistance from the Minneapolis Police Department, the West Hennepin Public Safety Department, and the Wright County Sheriff’s Office.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Angela M. Munoz, Emily A. Polachek, and Laura M. Provinzino are prosecuting the case.