Matt Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend agrees to cooperate with sex trafficking investigation: report

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An ex-girlfriend of U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz has agreed to cooperate in a sex-trafficking investigation into the Panhandle congressman, according to a CNN report, giving federal authorities a second key witness days after former Gaetz ally Joel Greenberg struck a plea deal.

The report described the woman as a former staffer on Capitol Hill seen as a “critical witness,” because her involvement with Gaetz stretches back to the summer of 2017. The report was sourced to unnamed ”people familiar with the matter.”

According to Greenberg’s plea deal, which requires him to cooperate with investigators, Greenberg spent more than $70,000 between December of 2016 and December of 2018 on more than 150 transactions, “all of which involved Greenberg paying women for commercial sex acts.”

One of the people Greenberg paid for sex was 17 at the time. The deal states that Greenberg learned the girl was 17 in September of 2017, by which time he’d had sex with her at least seven times. Greenberg was Seminole County tax collector from January 2017 until his arrest in June.

He said he also introduced her to adult men who had sex with her, too, though the men were not identified in the plea agreement. According to numerous reports, investigators are seeking to determine whether Gaetz was one of the men who had sex with the girl.

Gaetz has repeatedly and adamantly denied having paid for sex or had sex as an adult with anyone underage.

Federal prosecutors have said Greenberg paid women for sex through four accounts, including his office American Express account and his account on Venmo, the mobile payment app.

According to a report by The Daily Beast, Venmo records also show links between Gaetz and Greenberg’s payments to women.

For example, one night in May 2018, according to the report, Gaetz sent Greenberg $900 in a pair of transactions and Greenberg distributed that amount to three young women the following morning. In one of Gaetz’s transactions, he wrote “hit up” followed by a nickname for one of the women, the report said.

Greenberg’s pay-outs were labeled “tuition” and “school.” According to his plea deal, Greenberg often used false, mundane wording like this to disguise illegal payments for sex.

Federal prosecutors have not yet confirmed publicly that Gaetz is a target of the probe, and his name did not appear in Greenberg’s plea deal. Greenberg pleaded guilty to six federal charges, including sex trafficking of a child, in exchange for 27 additional charges being dropped.

Greenberg faces at least 12 years in prison, but prosecutors can recommend a lesser sentence if he provides “substantial assistance.” Legal experts said it’s likely that will require Greenberg to provide actionable information about someone of equal or greater value to himself.

Greenberg’s lawyer, Fritz Scheller, didn’t reveal any details when asked Monday what his client’s plea deal meant for Gaetz and others. As he spoke, a plane circled overhead towing a banner that said “Tick tock Matt Gaetz.”

“I guess this is just, you know, must-see television,” he said. “You’ll just have to wait and see.”

jeweiner@orlandosentinel.com

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