An FBI probe of Rep. Matt Gaetz is focusing on alleged payouts to multiple women by the Florida Republican in exchange for sex, The New York Times reports.
The news is just the latest scandal to hit Gaetz since the Times revealed the congressman was under scrutiny by federal investigators looking into whether he violated sex trafficking laws in his relations with a 17-year-old girl. Since that bombshell came out a mere two days ago, disturbing details about Gaetz’s alleged behavior have piled up, from claims he has bragged and shared naked photos of his sexual partners on the House floor, to the latest report that he left a trail of receipts via Apple Pay and Cash App showing money exchanged for sex.
According to the Times, Gaetz, 38, would reportedly meet and arrange for sex with women online, telling them the times and places to meet and how much he was willing to pay beforehand. The meetups are said to have taken place in 2019 and 2020. Two sources cited in the report also said Gaetz was known to have sometimes taken ecstasy before these sexual encounters, and that he tasked the women with finding others willing to sleep with him and his friends. They would reportedly meet the women via Seeking Arrangement, a site for wealthy sugar daddies and those in search of them.
The encounters involved a close political ally of Gaetz, former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, who is in jail awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. The investigation of Greenberg gave rise to the probe into Gaetz’s affairs.
The Times confirmed that Gaetz wired the women money via Apple Pay and Cash App. The Daily Beast can confirm that Joel Greenberg does use Cash App.
Gaetz’s office told the Times in a statement, “Matt Gaetz has never paid for sex. Matt Gaetz refutes all the disgusting allegations completely.”
Gaetz has not been charged with a crime. A lawyer for Greenberg declined to comment.
Federal investigators are reportedly checking whether one of the women involved with Gaetz was 17, and whether he paid her or gave her gifts. The unidentified teen at the center of the DOJ probe was also part of the sex trafficking case against Greenberg, according to the Times, and investigators are trying to figure out if other men within the Gaetz-Greenberg orbit also had sex with her.
Gaetz, for his part, has denied wrongdoing and pointed to what he labeled an “organized criminal extortion” plot against him, describing a bizarre drama involving his father and secret wire taps.
According to him and his father, millionaire former state senator Don Gaetz, an ex-Air Force intelligence official, a real estate broker previously convicted of fraud, and a Florida lawyer allegedly targeted the elder Gaetz with a $25 million extortion plot, ludicrously promising him that the federal investigation into his son would evaporate if he deposited the money. According to a document allegedly sent to Don Gaetz, the trio wanted to use the cash to ransom a U.S. hostage out of Iranian custody despite the fact that the captive, Bob Levinson, was declared dead last year. Don Gaetz phoned the FBI about the scheme and said he wore a recording wire during meetings with McGee and the real estate agent.
The lawyer, David McGee, told The Daily Beast the claim of an extortion plot was false. Another figure accused in the scheme, Robert Kent, told the Times he had spoken to the Gaetz family about funding for work on locating an American hostage, but that there was never any extortion attempt.
Sources cited by CNN late Thursday said investigators believe the extortion allegation and the sex trafficking investigation into Gaetz are two completely unrelated things.
Republicans on Capitol Hill told The Daily Beast that they have long waited for a scandal surrounding the young party member so as to be rid of him.
Gaetz, first elected in 2016, has fashioned himself a conservative firebrand in his five years in Congress. Acting as an attack dog for former President Donald Trump and various conservative culture war causes, he has appeared constantly on conservative and right-wing media. He has even gone so far as to court cable channels like Newsmax, One America News, and Fox for a potential job were he to retire from Congress.