A former student at St. Thomas University pleaded not guilty on Thursday to federal charges of recruiting underage girls as part of a sex trafficking scheme.
Gisela Castro Medina, 19, attended a virtual hearing with US District Court and Magistrate Judge Becky Thorson in Minnesota — the student’s first appearance since her arrest in the Florida Panhandle.
Judge Thorson agreed to release Medina to home GPS monitoring. The defendant must abstain from alcohol and illegal substances, submit to drug abuse and mental health treatment, and avoid case victims or witnesses, including co-defendant Anton Lazzaro prior to trial.
Sex Trafficking Conspiracy
Pioneer Press reported that Medina and Lazzaro allegedly worked together to recruit and solicit minors to engage in commercial sex in 2020. Lazzaro has also pleaded not guilty to the charges, as his attorney claims that the Minnesota GOP political operative has been wrongfully accused.
Federal prosecutors believed that Medina took on the role as Lazzaro’s recruiter and connected with victims through social media. She was also accused of buying the young girls’ silence once her alleged accomplice discovered their real age.
Jennifer Carnahan, the former leader of the Minnesota Republican Party and a close friend of Lazzaro, officially resigned from her position after news of Lazzaro’s charges became public. Carnahan was adamant that she knew nothing of the allegations but had been pressured to vacate her post.