Federal investigation focused on cash payments to women, report says

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A Justice Department investigation of Representative Matt Gaetz in Florida focuses on alleged cash payments made in exchange for sex, including to a 17-year-old girl, according to the New York Times.

Citing anonymous sources familiar with the investigation, texts and receipts, The Times reported that the Florida Republican is suspected of having had sex with women recruited online by Joel Greenberg – a former County Tax Collector. Seminole who has been charged with federal charges including sex trafficking – for dating in hotels and other places that, at least once, involved the use of ecstasy, an illegal drug.

According to Times sources, Gaetz also asked women to recruit other people to have sex with him and his friends. At least one of the women agreed to have sex with a third man linked to Florida Republican politics, The Times reported.

Gaetz, 38, denied any wrongdoing and insisted the allegations were linked to an extortion plot against him. His office did not immediately respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment, but told The Times in a statement that “Matt Gaetz never paid for sex” and that the congressman “completely denies all of them. the disgusting allegations “.

“Matt Gaetz cherishes the relationships of his past and looks forward to marrying the love of his life,” the statement said.

Gaetz is engaged to Ginger Luckey, sister of Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey.

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The Times said it looked at receipts from the Cash App and Apple Pay mobile payment apps that showed Gaetz and Greenberg’s payments to one of the women. The women told their friends that they had received payments for sex with the two men, which were also sometimes paid in cash withdrawn from hotel ATMs, the newspaper reported.

The Justice Department is reportedly investigating whether an underage girl was among those Greenberg and Gaetz paid for sex. The Times reported that the investigation was examining if Gaetz had sex with the 17-year-old girl, and whether she received any money or gifts from him.

Gaetz and Greenberg were political allies, and Gaetz, now in his third term, offered to support Greenberg if he ran for a higher post. But Greenberg resigned as a tax collector after being arrested last year by federal agents in a 14-count indictment, alleging he had hunted down a political rival, used his position for creating false identity documents and for having sexually trafficked a minor.

Last week it was charged with additional charges for allegedly filing fraudulent applications for COVID-19 relief loans and bribing a Small Business Administration official under the program. The indictment alleges that he committed these offenses after his arrest on the other counts. Greenberg, who is due to stand trial in June, is now charged with more than 30 counts and, if convicted, could face decades in prison.

According to several media outlets, the Greenberg investigation led investigators to launch a separate investigation into Gaetz in the summer of 2020. The charge of child sex trafficking relates to the same 17-year-old girl involved in the Gaetz investigation , according to the Times. .

Meetings being investigated took place in 2019 and 2020 and often took place at various hotels in Florida. The Times said the messages and interviews showed Gaetz and Greenberg told the women when and where to meet and how much they were willing to pay.

According to the Times, Greenberg used the Seeking Arrangement website to find women he and Gaetz allegedly paid for sex. The site, which claims more than 10 million active members, invoice itself like a place where “Sugar Babies and Sugar Daddies or Mommas both get what they want, when they want it.” He defines a “Sugar Daddy” as a successful person who “appreciates an attractive company around him” and for whom money “is not a problem”. A “Sugar Baby” is defined as an “attractive” person “in search of the finer things in life” who appreciates “travel and exotic gifts”.

“Sugar Babies can experience a luxurious lifestyle and regularly meet wealthy people,” the site promises.

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In the statement to The Times, Gaetz’s office said the congressman “has never been on such websites.”

Gaetz told The Times his lawyers spoke with the Justice Department and that he was the subject of the investigation, not the target.

“I only know it has to do with women,” Gaetz told The Times of the investigation. “I suspect someone is trying to reclassify my generosity to my ex-girlfriends as something more untoward.”

Gaetz communications director Luke Ball resigned on Friday amid growing allegations. Ball resigned “on principle”, a source with direct knowledge of his decision told the Pensacola News Journal, which is part of the USA TODAY network.

A statement from Gaetz’s office said that the congressman and Ball “agreed that it would be best to go their separate ways. We thank him for the time he spent in our office and we wish him the best for the future. to come up.”

Citing several anonymous sources, CNN reported Thursday night where Gaetz often bragged about his sexual activities to his colleagues on Capitol Hill and shared nude photos and videos of the women he claimed to have been with.

And ABC News, also citing anonymous sources, reported on Friday that as a member of the Legislative Assembly of Flordia – before being elected to the United States House – Gaetz and other young lawmakers had created a rating system for their sexual relations. They gave different points to the interns, their female colleagues and the women they had heard of were virgins. The so-called “game” was previously reported by the Miami Herald and South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Contribution: Savannah Behrmann, USA TODAY; Jim Little, Pensacola News Journal

What we know: Representative Matt Gaetz is under federal investigation, charged with having sex with a minor

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