St. Thomas GOP chairwoman arrested in trafficking case

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The chairwoman of the University of St. Thomas College Republicans has been arrested in Florida on suspicion of recruiting minors for a sex trafficking ring.

Gisela Castro Medina, 19, was arrested Thursday in Fort Walton Beach, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Saturday. The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office’s website said she was wanted on conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors and was a fugitive from the FBI in Minnesota.

The Minnesota College Republicans said in a news release that she was arrested along with Minnesota Republican activist Anton “Tony” Lazzaro. He has been indicted on multiple federal sex trafficking counts.

Lazzaro had close ties to many high-ranking Minnesota Republicans, including state party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan, who is married to U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn. She and Lazzaro co-hosted the podcast TruthMatters from October 2019 until early January 2020.

The University of St. Thomas issued a statement calling the allegations disturbing. The Minnesota College Republicans said in its release that Medina had recently assumed the chairmanship and hadn’t officially started working for the organization.

Lazzaro’s attorney, Zachary Newland, told the Star Tribune that Medina worked for Lazzaro and the two were friends. He added that Lazzaro is innocent and he’s seen no indications that investigators are pursuing a case against Carnahan.

At least 10 legislators and party leaders have called for Carnahan to step down, the Star Tribune reported. She didn’t return a message Saturday but issued a statement resisting that call, saying Lazzaro’s indictment is “disgusting” and it’s disappointing that party leaders are using guilt by association to demand her resignation.