WASHINGTON: Federal prosecutors are considering whether the Florida representative. Matt Gaetz and a political ally who faces allegations of sex trafficking may have paid underage girls or offered them gifts in exchange for sex, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Friday.
The careful examination of Gaetz stemmed from the Justice Department’s investigation into political ally Joel Greenberg, the people said. Greenberg, a former Florida tax collector, was indicted last year and is charged with a number of federal crimes. He pleaded not guilty.
Gaetz, a Republican elected to Congress in 2016, is a staunch supporter of the former president Donald trumpand a staple in conservative media. Republican congressional leaders have largely remained silent about the ongoing investigation.
Part of the investigation is to examine whether Gaetz had sex with a 17-year-old girl and other minors and violated federal sex trafficking laws, people familiar with the investigation told the ‘AP. Federal agents suspect that Greenberg may have seduced the girls and then introduced some to Gaetz, and are examining whether the two men may have had sex with the same girls, people said.
Those with knowledge of the investigation could not discuss the details publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. Details of the investigation were first reported by The New York Times.
Gaetz vehemently denied the allegations and said in a statement earlier this week that “None of the allegations against me are true.”
The Gaetz investigation, which has been ongoing since at least the summer of 2020, has reached the highest levels of the Justice Department, and former Attorney General William Barr has been briefed on the matter on several occasions, people said. .
In recent months, investigators have also interviewed several witnesses in the case and reviewed documents, including travel and financial records, people said.
Greenberg was the elected tax collector for Seminole County, near Orlando, when he resigned last June after his arrest on federal charges. Initially, it involved tracking down a political opponent, trafficking a minor for sexual purposes, and illegally using a state database to create fake driver’s licenses and other identity cards.
Since then, the case against Greenberg has grown to more than 30 charges, including wire fraud and other charges involving efforts to divert at least $ 400,000 from the office of tax collectors to the cryptocurrency that he controlled and for his personal use, such as the purchase of autographed memorabilia by NBA greats Michael Jordan and Kobe bryant, say federal prosecutors. Other charges accuse him of using two companies he controlled to fraudulently attempt to obtain coronavirus relief funds.
Gaetz said the allegations against him were part of an extortion plot by a Florida lawyer, who worked decades as a federal prosecutor and who Gaetz identified as David McGee.
In response, the McGee law firm said Gaetz’s allegation regarding the alleged extortion attempt was “both false and defamatory.” The firm said McGee held senior positions in the United States Attorney’s Office in Florida about 25 years ago and that his “reputation for integrity and ethical conduct was impeccable.”
The Department of Justice has conducted a separate investigation into the extortion allegations, conducted outside the US attorney’s office in North Florida, according to a person familiar with the investigation who was also unable to publicly discuss the matter. the matter and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
Gaetz said his family was cooperating with the FBI and that her father carried a recording device, under the direction of the FBI, “to catch these criminals”. He also asked the Ministry of Justice to release the tapes.
The Justice Department did not comment.