Federal authorities are looking into a trip Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.) allegedly took to the Bahamas in late 2018 or early 2019 as part of their investigation into allegations of sex trafficking that the Florida Republican has repeatedly denied, according to multiple reports.
Both CBS News and NBC News, citing sources familiar with the probe, reported authorities are assessing whether women who were on the Bahamas trip were paid to travel for sex, a violation of federal sex trafficking laws.
According to CBS News, Gaetz was with Orlando-based marijuana entrepreneur and hand surgeon Jason Pirozzolo, who allegedly paid for the travel expenses, accommodations and female escorts.
Gaetz could still be in violation of federal laws if the investigation turns up evidence that escorts were transported across state or international lines with the purpose of sex with the congressman.
Representatives for Gaetz and the Department of Justice could not immediately be reached by Forbes, but a spokesperson for Gaetz’s office told CBS News the congressman “has never paid for sex, nor has he had sex with an underage girl.”
“What began with blaring headlines about ‘sex trafficking’ has now turned into a general fishing exercise about vacations and consensual relationships with adults,” said the spokesperson.
The broader Department of Justice probe is looking into whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl, and whether he and disgraced former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg paid women for sex, The New York Times reported last week. Gaetz has vehemently denied all allegations against him, claiming instead that his family was the victim of a $25 million extortion scheme intended to smear his name. Amid the reports of the investigation, other claims have come out against Gaetz, including that he reportedly showed photos of nude women to his congressional colleagues. The Times reported earlier this week that Gaetz asked former President Donald Trump for a preemptive pardon toward the end of his time in office, at which point the Department of Justice had opened its investigation, though it’s unclear what Gaetz knew about it. The former president denied that reporting in a Wednesday statement, saying: “Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon.”
Gaetz penned an op-ed in the Washington Examiner on Monday slamming the “bizarre” claims against him. “Since I’m taking my turn under the gun, let me address the allegations against me directly. First, I have never, ever paid for sex. And second, I, as an adult man, have not slept with a 17-year-old,” he wrote.
“Trump Denies Matt Gaetz Asked Him For A Presidential Pardon” (Forbes)
“Matt Gaetz Has Appeared On Fox News Nearly 180 Times” (Forbes)
“Matt Gaetz’s Travel Records Don’t Do What He Claims They Do” (Forbes)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .