01:49 GMT21 April 2021
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    The New York Times has reported, citing three people familiar with the matter, that the Florida Congressman is being investigated for alleged sex trafficking of a minor. The 38-year-old lawmaker has denied these claims and said that he and his family are victims of an extortion plot masterminded by a former employee of the Department of Justice.

    The US Department of Justice is investigating whether Congressman Matt Gaetz paid a number of women for sex, according to a report in the New York Times, which claims it is citing text messages and receipts as well as people close to the investigation. According to the newspaper, Joel Greenberg, a former tax collector in Florida introduced Gaetz to the women he met on dating websites, which connect wealthy men and women with clients, or sugar babies, as they are called.

    One such website is Seeking Arrangement, which, according to its description, helps "Sugar Daddies or Mommas find beautiful members to accompany them at all times".

    "Every successful relationship is an arrangement between two parties. In business, partners sign business agreements that outline their objectives and expectations. Likewise, romantic relationships can only work if two people agree on what they expect, and what they can give and receive from each other," reads a statement on the website.

    Receipts from the Apple Pay and Cash app seem to show that Gaetz paid two women, who later told their friends that the payments were for sex, the New York Times writes, quoting two people familiar with the conversations.

    Text messages seen by the newspaper reveal that during encounters in 2019 and 2020, Gaetz and Greenberg told women to meet them at certain places and how much money the two were willing to pay. In some cases the Congressman asked women to help him find other ladies interested in having sex with him and his friends, the two people cited by the paper told the New York Times.
    The paper added that if anyone should question what these women were doing, they should say that Gaetz and his friends paid for hotel rooms and dinners as part of a romantic date.

    Sex Trafficking of a Minor and Gaetz' Response

    The newspaper article comes two days after the same organ reported that the Department of Justice launched an investigation into Gaetz’ alleged sexual relationship with a minor, a 17-year-old girl, and whether the official had paid for her travel. The newspaper cited information it obtained from people familiar with the matter. The investigation into Gaetz was part of a wider probe into Joel Greenberg, who was indicted on sex-trafficking charges last August. Gaetz said he is not the target of the investigation, but the subject. He later denied any wrongdoing.

    "I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward. It is verifiably false that I have travelled with a 17-year-old woman," he said.

    Gaetz also claimed that he and his family were victims of an extortion plot masterminded by a former employee of the Department of Justice, who demanded $25 million in exchange for making the allegations of sex trafficking go away.

    ​Gaetz said his family went to the FBI to deal with the extortion and that his dad wore a wire and recorded a meeting and a telephone conversation with one of the supposed extortionists. The New York Times cites an email exchange between Gaetz’ father Don's lawyer and the Justice Department, which appears to confirm that he was working with the intelligence agency.

    Tags:
    United States, prostitution, Sex Trafficking, Don Gaetz, Matt Gaetz
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