Witnesses said Matt Gaetz snorted cocaine and had sex with an escort who was paid with campaign money, report says

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  • Matt Gaetz reportedly snorted cocaine with a female escort at a hotel party in 2019, The Daily Beast reported.

  • The Florida congressman reportedly wrote off the hotel stay as a campaign expense.

  • Gaetz faces a Justice Department investigation into whether he violated federal sex-trafficking laws.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Witnesses said Rep. Matt Gaetz snorted cocaine and had sex with an escort who was paid with campaign money, The Daily Beast reported Friday.

In late October 2019, Gaetz headlined as a featured speaker at the "Trump Defender Gala" fundraiser, hosted by the Westgate Lake Resort in Orlando, Florida. At an afterparty in Gaetz's room following the event, witnesses told The Daily Beast that a woman named Megan Zalonka brought and prepared lines of cocaine on the bathroom counter.

The Florida congressman wrote off the hotel stay as a campaign expense, The Beast reported. Two sources also told The Beast that Gaetz and Zalonka, who worked as a paid escort and amateur Instagram model according to the report, had an ongoing paid relationship in exchange for sex.

"She was just one of the many pieces of arm candy he had," one source familiar with their relationship told The Beast.

Zalonka was also associated with Joel Greenberg, a former Florida county tax collector and one-time wingman of Gaetz. According to The Beast report, her relationship with Greenberg turned into a "no-show" job funded by taxpayer dollars that earned her $7,000 to $17,500, three sources told the news outlet and corroborated by corresponding government records obtained by The Beast.

Greenberg is expected to plead guilty on Monday to six felony counts including sex trafficking, wire fraud, identity theft, stalking, and conspiracy as first reported by Insider. The Beast reported that Greenberg "will identify that escort to investigators as one of more than 15 young women Gaetz paid for sex, according to a source familiar with the investigation."

Representatives for Gaetz's office nor the Logan Circle Group, the public relations firm Gaetz hired, did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

In a statement to The Beast, the Logan Circle Group said the congressman "won't be commenting on whether he dated or didn't date specific women. The privacy of women living private lives should be protected."

An attorney for Zalonka said the allegations of the witnesses in The Beast report were not "accurate" and that Zalonka "is not speaking to any media outlet."

The news that Greenberg would plead guilty marks a major development in his case, which dates back to June 2020 when he was arraigned on federal charges, prompting him to resign from his elected position as tax collector for Florida's Seminole County. The charges Greenberg will plead guilty to are a significant downgrade from the 33 felonies he was initially charged with prior to striking a deal to cooperate with prosecutors.

The development likely ramps up pressure on Gaetz, who has not been charged with any crime, but who faces a Justice Department investigation into whether he violated federal sex-trafficking laws.

Legal experts told Insider that prosecutors decision to reduce Greenberg's charges suggests he has information of significant value.

The Gaetz investigation is reportedly looking into whether the Florida congressman used campaign money to fund travel for women. Investigators are said to be scrutinizing Gaetz and Greenberg's interactions with "multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments," according to The New York Times.

Prosecutors are also said to be investigating a Bahamas trip Gaetz reportedly took in late 2018 or early 2019 with a hand surgeon and marijuana entrepreneur as part of the inquiry into whether Gaetz broke sex trafficking laws, CBS News reported last month. Gaetz's two cruise compatriots allegedly paid for the crew's travel expenses and accommodations, as well as female sex workers.

Early last month, The Daily Beast reported that in 2018 Gaetz had sent $900 to Greenberg over Venmo, who then sent that same total, in various amounts, to three young women. Then, earlier this week, CNN reported that in addition to Greenberg, federal investigators are also seeking cooperation from a former Capitol Hill intern who used to date Gaetz but did not work in his office.

Gaetz has continued to deny the allegations against him, insisting the Justice Department's investigation is part of an extortion scheme against him and his family members.

Read the original article on Business Insider