Matt Gaetz allegedly boasted about Joel Greenberg’s ‘access to women’
Gaetz is alleged to have boasted about his ‘links to women’ obtained through a friend accused in a sex-trafficking case.
Rep. Matt Gaetz regularly boasted to Florida political insiders about women he met through a county tax collector who has since been charged with sex trafficking of a minor, according to two people who overheard his remarks directly.
They also alleged that the Republican congressman, who was first elected in 2016, showed them images of nude or topless women on several occasions, including at parties with Joel Greenberg, the former Seminole County tax collector. The women seemed to be adults, as they were seen dancing, lounging by a pool, and in one instance, nakedly hula hooping, according to the witnesses.
“Matt was never shy about discussing his friendship with Joel and the access to women that Joel provided,” said one of these individuals, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to be candid. “What these videos meant was that everyone was engaging in some kind of sexual activity.”
According to a person familiar with the matter, the Justice Department is investigating whether Gaetz, whose allegiance to former President Donald Trump and repeated appearances on cable news have endeared him to many conservatives, paid for sex with a variety of women in violation of federal sex-trafficking laws. The inquiry started during Trump’s presidency and was approved by his attorney general.
Gaetz has been cleared of all criminal charges. Such cases may be difficult, and state agencies normally prosecute alleged offenses involving the solicitation of sex.
The Justice Department is investigating Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) for an alleged sexual relationship with an underage child. (Source: The Washington Post
Federal law enforcement authorities believe Greenberg procured multiple women for Gaetz and are investigating whether they ever exchanged sexual partners, including at least one girl who was 17 at the time of the alleged encounter, a person familiar with the matter said.
Greenberg faces a slew of other charges in addition to the child sex abuse charge. He has pleaded not guilty and his trial is set for this summer. His attorney did not respond to a request for comment.
Gaetz is accused of using websites that link men with women in exchange for dinners or hotel stays, according to a source familiar with the matter. Using such services is not illegal unless money is exchanged expressly for sex. According to a person familiar with the matter, investigators have received witness statements and other documentation indicating Gaetz did so. The New York Times first reported on some of this data.
According to a person familiar with the matter, investigators are also looking into claims that Gaetz and others used illicit substances during some of their interactions with women.
Gaetz, 38, declared her engagement in December. He has denied having inappropriate sexual contact with a minor and accused the Justice Department of attempting to criminalize lawful sexual activity. He said that he paid for flights and hotel rooms for women he dated and that the federal investigation is tainted by a separate attempt to extort money from his family to fund the rescue or recovery of a former FBI agent who went missing in Iran more than a decade ago.
When contacted Friday to discuss allegations that he boasted about women he met via Greenberg and showed people videos of naked women, Gaetz replied via text message with a statement.
“I’ve never been fined for sex. As an adult, I have never had sex with an underage person,” Gaetz wrote. “Throughout college and graduate school, I dated women and boasted about how wonderful they are on a wide scale, as boyfriends do. Occasionally, people I’ve dated have accompanied me to campaign events.”
Gaetz’s social life and actions, according to those who know him, changed as his fame grew.
CNN revealed Thursday that Gaetz used his phone to show similar images and videos of naked women to fellow legislators, some on the House floor. According to the network, one of the videos depicted a nude woman holding a hula hoop. Gaetz and his spokesperson did not respond to CNN’s inquiries about the accusations.
In early 2018, as the #MeToo campaign gained momentum and compelled many legislators to resign, an anonymous report was made to then-House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s office (R-Wis.). According to a source familiar with the complaint, Gaetz was accused of leering at a young female Capitol staffer. Ryan did not address the complaint directly to Gaetz, but senior staff asked the first-term lawmaker about his conduct, this individual said. He denied any wrongdoing, and the case was dropped due to the secret nature of the allegation and the aide’s failure to pursue the matter.
Gaetz made no comment on the discussion.
Gaetz has often charted his own course in the Republican conference as a congressman, often attacking leaders and mocking attempts to raise money for party activities. He has long advocated for decriminalizing recreational drug usage and became an ardent defender of former Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) following the publication of private nude images of her online in an apparent attempt to shame her.
“The of us would appear flawless if every ex leaked every photo/text?” Gaetz tweeted in 2019 during an internal inquiry into claims that Hill had an intimate relationship with a staffer. “Katie is not being investigated or maligned by Ethics because she has harmed anyone; she is being investigated and maligned because she is unique.”
Following news this week that Gaetz was being investigated for a possible sex crime, Hill tweeted — without directly naming him — “A 17-year-old girl is a girl, not a woman.” Statutory rape is rape, plain and simple.” Hill was unavailable for comment.
In 2017, Gaetz was the only member of Congress to vote against a bill to curb sex trafficking, claiming that the measure would “create more federal government.” The Transportation Department was directed to select a point person and advisory committee to organize efforts to prevent human trafficking. The Congressional Budget Office projected that the bill would cost approximately $1 million over a four-year period.
The change contrasted with Gaetz’s legislative work in Florida, where he prioritized strengthening laws against sex trafficking and prostitution. In 2012, he co-sponsored legislation that made it easier for law enforcement authorities to intercept communications and prosecute those responsible for such crimes. A year later, he threatened massage parlors, claiming he wanted to “go after those” involved in sexual harassment, and later assisted in the passage of legislation raising the penalties for such offenses — a measure he believed was appropriate “for the sake of young people.”
However, Gaetz was known to make remarks in recent years about socializing with audiences younger than himself. Three people familiar with Ron DeSantis’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign said Gaetz, an advisor who later assisted in heading DeSantis’s transition team, repeatedly recommended that activities be arranged to “end the night in a college town.” These individuals claimed that, while Gaetz’s suggestions seemed lighthearted, they assumed he was suggesting that he wished to frequent bars in those communities. Gaetz celebrated his 36th birthday during the DeSantis campaign.
“This is an ongoing inquiry by the Department of Justice. We have no comment,” Meredith Beatrice, a spokeswoman for DeSantis, said in an email. Gaetz did not respond to a request for comment on the statement.
While Gaetz represents a portion of the Florida panhandle, he developed a social life in the state’s middle, forming friendships with a number of Republicans in the Orlando area. Seminole County encompasses the metropolitan area’s northern half.
Gaetz made no secret of his relationship with Greenberg, posing for a photo with him at the White House and regularly tagging or retweeting posts with his name, including one about marijuana decriminalization, which Greenberg also endorsed.
Gaetz floated Greenberg’s name as the strongest Republican nominee for Florida’s 7th Congressional District, which was represented by a Democrat, during a 2017 interview with a local radio station, WFLA.
“Joel Greenberg went to the Seminole County tax collector’s office and caused havoc,” Gaetz said. “If you look at what the country’s people want right now, they want the disrupter.”
Greenberg is charged with a series of offenses in addition to child sex abuse, including forging identification and stalking a political opponent. He was arrested again in March on suspicion of breaching his bond by moving without permission to another city in Florida. He reportedly turned up uninvited at his mother-in-house law’s in search of his wife, according to a police report. Greenberg has also been charged with restarting two businesses after his detention in order to secure Small Business Administration loans for pandemic relief.