Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz claims sex trafficking investigation is extortion attempt

Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz claims sex trafficking investigation is extortion attempt

March 30 (UPI) — Rep. Matt Gaetz confirmed Tuesday night that he is under federal investigation over a possible sexual relationship with an underage girl, while declaring the allegations false.

Gaetz, a Republican representing Florida’s 1st District, said in a series of tweets that the investigation is part of “an organized criminal extortion” involving a former Department of Justice official seeking $25 million and said he has been cooperating with federal authorities.

“No part of the allegations against me are true and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation,” he wrote. “I demand the DOJ immediately release the tapes, made at their direction, which implicate their former colleague in crimes against me based on false allegations.”

Gaetz, 38, added that his father has been working with the FBI in the Northern District of Florida on the extortion case.

Sources familiar with the matter told The New York Times investigators are examining whether Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws by engaging in a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paying for her to travel with him.

The investigation began in the final months of former President Donald Trump’s administration under Attorney General William Barr and was part of an investigation into Joel Greenberg, a former tax collector in northern Florida, who was indicted last year on charges of sex trafficking of a child and financially supporting people, including one underage girl, in exchange for sex.

In an interview with Axios, he added that the specifics of the allegations are “unclear” and he’s been told “very little” about the investigation and that his lawyers were informed he was “not a target but a subject of an investigation regarding sexual conduct with women.”

Gaetz said he has provided financially for former sexual partners but said he was “absolutely” confident none of them were underage.

“I have definitely, in my single days, provided for women I’ve dated,” he told Axios. “You know, I’ve paid for flights, for hotel rooms. I’ve been, you know, generous as a partner. I think someone is trying to make that look criminal when it is not.”

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