For the last month, U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL-02) has been embroiled in investigation and public scrutiny since a New York Times story broke detailing an alleged illicit relationship Gaetz had with a 17-year-old girl and being a part of sex trafficking.
Immediately, Gaetz went public about the accusation by appearing on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and flatly denied the entirety of The Times’ report and claimed the allegations are part of an extortion plot.
Over the past several weeks my family and I have been victims of an organized criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name.
We have been cooperating with federal authorities in this matter…
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) March 30, 2021
The Times’ article cites three sources claiming the girl Gaetz traveled with across state lines was a minor, and it goes on to say looking into Gaetz stemmed from a federal investigation into former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg. Greenberg was indicted last year on charges related to sex trafficking a child. Greenberg was previously endorsed by Gaetz and shared political connections in Florida. Gaetz and Greenberg have been pictured together numerous times at political events across Florida.
Greenberg allegedly operated the sex trafficking ring by recruiting women online for sex in exchange for things like gifts and trips. The website, Seeking Arrangement, is a site Greenberg used due to it being known to assist wealthy clients find attractive individuals to be a part of the exchange agreement.
One woman has come forward and told investigators she engaged in sexual activity with Gaetz, Greenberg, and allegedly former Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary and lawmaker Halsey Beshears. The woman claims the interaction with Gaetz was paid in cash.
Sources say he recently received a "target letter" from federal investigators. pic.twitter.com/IFpyHTJhFC
— Peter Schorsch (@PeterSchorschFL) April 7, 2021
The woman, who was a minor at the time of the interaction, said she testified in front of a grand jury she had sex with a Republican Congressman.
According to records obtained by the Daily Beast, Greenberg made over 150 Venmo payments to young women, including one girl who was 17-years old at the time of the payment. Among the findings of the Venmo transactions included payments for hundreds of dollars with the memo line saying “food,” “salad,” “appetizers,” and even one Venmo payment from Gaetz to Greenberg with the “love hotel” emoji.
It is also likely Gaetz knew he would be in the middle of a scandal. In December 2020, federal investigators seized Gaetz’s phone.
Recent reports show Gaetz’s campaign is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars is TV ads pushing back against the allegations as well as large amounts of campaign expenses, and around $5,000 in “strategic consulting” fees to Republican political operative Roger Stone. Gaetz has so far received no financial backing from congressional colleagues since the original New York Times piece broke.
While the investigation is ongoing, Gaetz has said he has no plans of resigning from his congressional seat.
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