According to the New York Times, federal authorities are investigating U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz for possible sex trafficking charges stemming from the indictment of former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg.
According to the New York Times, Justice Department investigators are looking into whether Gaetz, a close friend of Donald Trump, had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and arranged for her to fly with him, according to three people briefed on the matter.
Greenberg is facing a slew of charges, including sexual exploitation of a child, and Gaetz’s investigation is said to have resulted from that investigation. In June, he will go on trial for the first time.
According to the New York Times report, many aspects of the Gaetz investigation, including how the congressman allegedly met the child, remain undisclosed. According to the paper, the encounters took place about two years ago, and the investigation started in the final months of Trump’s presidency under then-Attorney General William P. Barr.
Gaetz is yet to be charged with anything.
On the other hand, Gaetz described himself as a generous, romantic partner who had “absolutely” not dated underage girls in an interview with the news website Axios.
He said, “I have definitely, in my single days, provided for women I’ve dated.” He continued, “You know, I’ve paid for flights, for hotel rooms. I’ve been, you know, generous as a partner. I think someone is trying to make that look criminal when it is not.”
In comments to the New York Times and Axios, as well as in a series of tweets, Gaetz alleged that he was the target of a complicated extortion scheme by a former Department of Justice official, who he claimed used threats to discredit him to collect millions of dollars.
He added, “No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation,” he said.
In June, Greenberg resigned as tax collector after being arrested by federal agents at his house. He faces 14 charges, including stalking a political rival, using a state database unlawfully to generate false IDs, and sex trafficking a minor.
Greenberg allegedly used his access to a classified state database as an elected official to look up information about a girl between the ages of 14 and 17 with whom he was involved in a “sugar daddy” relationship, according to federal prosecutors.
According to federal indictments filed with the US Attorney’s office in August, Greenberg is also accused of making “a false identification document and to facilitate his efforts to engage in commercial sex acts.”
The Orlando Sentinel reported that Greenberg often discussed how close he and Gaetz were as friends and that the congressman would frequently visit him at his Lake Mary home.
In a grand jury indictment, prosecutors claimed that Greenberg took surrendered driver’s licenses as a tax collector until they were shredded by office workers and produced new IDs with his photo but the personal details of people.
According to court documents, when federal agents first arrested Greenberg on June 23 at his home in the gated Heathrow neighborhood, they said they discovered a backpack containing several fake IDs on Greenberg’s SUV’s front seat, which belonged to the Tax Collector’s Office. At Greenberg’s office at the Tax Collector’s administrative office in Lake Mary, agents discovered materials used to make fake IDs.
Greenberg was released on bail following his arrest but was returned to prison on March 3 by a federal judge for breaching his curfew and leaving the Central Florida area. Greenberg left his Lake Mary home on Feb. 28 and drove to his mother-in-condominium law’s in Jupiter to look for his wife, Abby Greenberg.
Greenberg is currently being held in the Orange County Jail, where he will stand trial in mid-June.
State Rep. Chris Latvala accused Gaetz of making a “game” out of “sleeping with assistants, interns, lobbyists, and married politicians” during his tenure in Tallahassee in January 2020. The allegation repeated a Miami Herald article from 2015, which said that younger state legislators were engaging in such conduct. Gaetz vehemently denied any participation in such a game.