In two late-night Venmo deals in May 2018, Representative Matt Gaetz sent his friend $ 900, accused sex trafficker Joel Greenberg. The next morning, for eight minutes, Greenberg used the same app to send three young women varying amounts of money. In total, the transactions amounted to $ 900.
The memo field for the first of Gaetz’s transactions at Greenberg was titled “Test.” In the second, the Florida GOP congressman wrote “hit up ___”. But instead of a blank, Gaetz wrote a nickname for one of the recipients. (The Daily Beast doesn’t share that nickname because the teenager had only turned 18 less than six months ago.) When Greenberg then made his Venmo payments to these three young women, he described the money as being intended for “tuition,” “at school,” and “school.”
The Daily Beast reviewed these files as a scandal, rooted in a criminal case against Greenberg, engulfed Gaetz.
The strange friendship that can bring down Matt Gaetz
Greenberg – the former Seminole County tax collector – has now been charged federally on 33 counts, including sex trafficking crimes involving a 17-year-old. Court documents say Greenberg was “engaged in ‘sugar daddy’ relationships.” And The New York Times says that a Justice Department investigation is examining Gaetz’s involvement in the cash-for-sex network.
Gaetz and Greenberg are both connected via Venmo to the then 18-year-old woman – who now works in the porn industry, according to a friend of the girl. And on Thursday, Greenberg’s attorney and prosecutors told a court hearing that they expected Greenberg to reach a plea deal, which likely means he plans to cooperate with investigators.
This could be potentially disastrous for Gaetz, as investigators look into the ties between the two men. And a particularly damning connection is their financial transactions.
This week, during the reporting of this story, Gaetz’s once public list of Venmo transactions vanished. Greenberg’s Venmo account is currently not accessible to the public. But The Daily Beast was able to get partial records of Greenberg’s past online transactions through a source.
Republicans were waiting for a Matt Gaetz scandal to break down
Greenberg and Gaetz are also connected on Venmo to at least one other woman whom Greenberg paid with taxpayer funds using a government-issued credit card. Seminole County auditors reported hundreds of these payments as “questioned or unaccounted for” and found a total of more than $ 300,000 in suspicious or unjustified expenses. The Daily Beast was able to obtain this credit card data through a public registration request.
“No one has any idea what he was doing. Zero, ”said Daniel J. O’Keefe, an accountant who performed a forensic audit for the county. “The arrogance of these guys. They felt they were just above the law. I’ve never seen it so bad.
O’Keefe was particularly intrigued by the weekend expenses, hotels, unspecified “consulting” fees, and cash advances Greenberg made to himself and others. The Daily Beast compared Greenberg’s credit card statements and Venmo transactions to Gaetz’s expenses and travel records – compiled using campaign financial reports, Instagram posts, and Venmo – and found that, in some key places the two calendars and contact circles overlap.
Gaetz and Greenberg share a relationship with Venmo with at least two women who have received payments from Greenberg and both have professional relationships with each other.
In 2018, Greenberg also paid several thousand dollars to another woman, a mutual friend of Gaetz’s, using her Wells Fargo Visa card issued by Seminole County, backed by taxpayers, according to county financial records obtained by The Daily Beast. Auditors reported the transactions, saying that despite a contract and an invoice from the company, they “don’t know what it’s for.”
Last week, The New York Times reported that the Justice Department was investigating Gaetz for allegedly paying a 17-year-old girl to travel with him across state lines and instigating her into having sex – an act that would violate federal laws on child sex trafficking. The investigation dates back to last summer, when it was born from the current Greenberg probe. According to Times, the two men allegedly had sex with the same 17-year-old girl and trafficked her.
The three-term Republican has acknowledged the existence of the investigation but denies the allegations. He told the Daily Beast in a late March 31 text message: “The last time I had sex with a seventeen-year-old teenager, I was seventeen.” And in a conservative Washington Examiner editorial last weekend, Gaetz claimed he “never, ever paid women for sex.”
Matt Gaetz said his “travel records” would exonerate him. Not so fast.
Gaetz has not been charged with a crime, and Gaetz’s congressional office declined to comment directly on this story.
Instead, a representative of an outside public relations firm, the Logan Circle Group, responded with this statement from Gaetz: “Rumors, gossip and self-serving inaccuracies from others will be dealt with in a timely manner by my legal team. . “
Erin Elmore of Logan Circle – a pro-Trump expert and former candidate on The apprentice[…]added that a lawyer would “closely monitor your coverage.”
Another Logan Circle employee, who was banned from Fox News after calling Vice President Kamala Harris an “insufferable lying bitch”, was also copied to the email.
Greenberg’s defense attorney Fritz Scheller also did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But at a press conference after a hearing on the case, Scheller proposed that the Florida congressman would likely not appreciate the news that Greenberg was agreeing to a plea deal.
“I’m sure Matt Gaetz isn’t feeling very comfortable today,” Scheller said.
—Updated with Gaetz’s comment.
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