Fort Walton Beach, FL – U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) has denied allegations he had been involved with a 17-year-old girl and said it was part of a $25 million extortion attempt against his family.
Sources told The Washington Post that the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) had already been investigating the controversial Florida congressman for months before the attempt to extort $25 million occurred.
Three people briefed on the investigation told The New York Times that federal investigators were exploring whether Gaetz had violated federal sex trafficking laws with the 17 year old.
The alleged encounter occurred about two years ago and it was unclear how the two met.
Sources said the investigation was launched while William Barr was Attorney General under then-President Donald Trump and senior justice officials were notified about it at the time, The New York Times reported.
The investigation into the 38-year-old Gaetz may be part of a broader investigation into a former Florida lawmaker who was indicted on sex trafficking charges in 2020.
But no charges have been brought against Gaetz to date, The New York Times reported.
Gaetz said that his attorneys had been in touch with DoJ and were told the congressman was the subject of an investigation, not the target.
“I only know that it has to do with women,” he said. “I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward.”
Gaetz called the investigation part of an elaborate extortion scheme surrounding “false sex allegations,” The New York Times reported.
He said his father, Don Gaetz, had been contacted by people who offered to make the investigation go away if he would give $25 million to fund their effort to find Robert A. Levinson, the longest-held American hostage in Iran, The Washington Post reported.
Gaetz released documents that detailed a scheme allegedly cooked up by former Air Force intelligence officer Bob Kent and former federal prosecutor David McGee, now an attorney with Beggs & Lane, to free Levinson from Iran, the Washington Examiner reported.
The former FBI agent-turned private investigator disappeared in that country in 2007.
Kent allegedly offered to give Gaetz the credit for the rescue operation and promised a Presidential pardon without saying what it was for, the Washington Examiner reported.
Don Gaetz met with Kent on March 17 while “wearing a wire” and Kent gave him a $25 million plan entitled “Project Homecoming” that outlined how they would save Levinson.
The documents Kent gave to Don Gaetz demanded the money be deposited in a trust account with Beggs & Lane, McGee’s law firm, no later than March 19, the Washington Examiner reported.
The Project Homecoming document said the FBI was investigating Gaetz “for various public corruption and public integrity issues” and claimed federal investigators knew of photos depicting Gaetz participating in a “sexual orgy with underage prostitutes.”
The document read “In exchange for the funds being arranged, and upon the release of Mr. Levinson, the team that delivers Mr. Levinson to the President of The United States shall strongly advocate that President Biden issue a Presidential Pardon, or instruct the Department of Justice to terminate any and all investigations involving Congressman Gaetz,” the Washington Examiner reported.
“The team has been assured by the President that he will strongly consider such matters because he considers the release of Robert Levinson a matter of National Urgency,” the document read.
The White House has not responded to requests for comment, the Washington Examiner reported.
Gaetz said the revelation of the sex trafficking inquiry was done in an attempt to thwart an investigation into the attempt to extort $25 million from his father.
He said he had no plans to resign from Congress and denied having had a romantic relationship with a minor, The New York Times reported.
“It is verifiably false that I have traveled with a 17-year-old woman,” Gaetz said.
Sources told The Washington Post that the people who approached Don Gaetz had no connection to the DoJ investigation of his son other than having learned about it.
There has been much speculation that the investigation into Gaetz was initiated after investigators found something while investigating Joel Greenberg, The New York Times reported.
It’s not known exactly how the two men are connected, but the congressman appeared with former-President Trump ally Roger Stone and Greenberg in a selfie on social media in 2017.
— Joel Greenberg (@JoelGreenbergTC) July 9, 2017
The caption “great catching up” implied it wasn’t the first time Gaetz and Greenberg had met.
Greenberg was initially indicted for malfeasance in office after he was elected tax collector in Seminole County, The New York Times reported.
But investigators found a treasure trove of documents on one of his laptops that led to additional charges, including proof he had made fake identification cards for himself and an underage girl.
Court documents showed Greenberg had also been experimenting with holograms for concealed-carry firearms permits, The New York Times reported.