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A witness told prosecutors that Matt Gaetz was aware he'd had sex with a minor, per The Daily Beast.
Joe Ellicott said he was in the room when Joel Greenberg informed Gaetz in a phone call in 2017.
Ellicott struck a plea deal and is among several people cooperating in the sex-crimes probe into Gaetz.
A witness has confirmed to federal prosecutors that Rep. Matt Gaetz was informed in 2017 that he'd had sex with a minor, sources told The Daily Beast.
"Immediately I called the congressman and warned him to stay clear of this person and informed him she was underage," Greenberg wrote, according to the outlet. He added Gaetz was "equally shocked and disturbed by this revelation" and that "there was no further contact with this individual until after her 18th birthday."
According to The Daily Beast, someone else was in the room when Greenberg called Gaetz to convey that information: Joe Ellicott, Greenberg's close friend and a former employee at the Seminole County tax office. Both men are now cooperating with federal investigators in the sex-crimes probe into Gaetz.
Ellicott's decision to cooperate is likely bad news for the embattled Florida congressman, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in connection to the sex-trafficking probe.
"After nearly a year of false rumors, not a shred of evidence has implicated Congressman Gaetz in wrongdoing," his chief of staff told Insider on Thursday. "We remain focused on our work representing Floridians."
Among other things, Ellicott and Greenberg reportedly exchanged text messages via the encrypted messaging app Signal, in which Ellicott disclosed that a woman they both were associated with "knew [the minor] was underage the whole time, had sex with her, and they both went to see other guys."
Greenberg pleaded guilty to sex trafficking in May and agreed to cooperate fully with the government on other investigations. Ellicott agreed to cooperate this week and will plead guilty to two federal crimes — conspiracy to commit wire fraud and distribution of a controlled substance — in a case separate from the Gaetz investigation, ABC News reported.
No charges have been brought against Gaetz, but several recent developments indicate the investigation is heating up. Among other things, Gaetz's ex-girlfriend testified before a federal grand jury earlier this month. NBC News reported that the ex, whose name Insider is withholding to protect her privacy, has been talking to prosecutors for months and was granted immunity in exchange for her testimony.
NBC also said prosecutors are investigating whether Gaetz sex-trafficked the 17-year-old; if he violated the Mann Act, which prohibits the transportation of "any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose" across state lines; or if he obstructed justice. Gaetz has denied all three claims.
With respect to the obstruction probe, investigators are said to be scrutinizing a three-way call after the investigation started between Gaetz, his ex, and another woman who was cooperating with federal authorities and who was reportedly recording the phone call. NBC reported that authorities suspect Gaetz of obstructing justice during that conversation; he's denied the allegation.
An attorney for Ellicott declined to comment on reporting about his client's cooperation deal. A spokesperson for Gaetz and a lawyer representing Greenberg did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Read the original article on Business Insider