Illustration for article titled These Text Message Receipts Reportedly Led Feds to Rep. Matt Gaetz

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Federal investigators began looking into Florida U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz following a mysterious after-hours visit to a Florida tax agency where a former local official was allegedly churning out fake IDs, the Daily Beast reports. Little did they know that was just the tip of the iceberg. Gaetz now faces a Justice Department probe into allegations of sex trafficking in a growing scandal that was outlined in a New York Times report this week.

The congressman, who was a close ally of former President Donald Trump, purportedly attracted federal scrutiny during an investigation into the aforementioned official, Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg, for identity theft and stalking. Greenberg is also the subject of a Justice Department probe over a bevy of eyebrow-raising charges, including allegations that he and Gaetz recruited young women online, at least one of whom was 17 years old, and paid them for sex.

A series of text messages referencing the clandestine visit and attempts to secure Gaetz an ID under the table eventually led Secret Service agents to the congressman, per the outlet. Three people with direct knowledge of the incident told the Daily Beast that Greenberg brought Gaetz to the Lake Mary, Florida branch of his tax collection agency on a weekend in April 2018. When an employee returned to the office on Monday, she was surprised to find drivers’ licenses “scattered all over the desk instead of in the appropriate disposal basket.” Upon reviewing security camera footage and seeing that Greenberg and another man had stopped by the office after hours, she said she contacted her boss.

The Daily Beast reviewed screenshots of the text message thread in which Greenberg confirms he had been “showing congressman Gaetz what our operation looked like” that weekend. A few months later, he reached out to an employee outside of proper channels and business hours to request a new ID card for the congressman without him having to jump through the typical legal hoops involved in the process, such as providing additional documentation for security purposes.

“Amy- is there anyway to assist one of our Congressmen in getting an emergency replacement ID or DL by Tuesday 2pm? His was lost yesterday and he’s got a flight Tuesday. Doesn’t have any other form of ID currently on him. Sorry to bother you on Sunday,” Greenberg wrote in a screenshotted text reviewed by the outlet. He then confirmed that the requested ID was for the Florida representative, “Matthew Louis Gaetz II” born on May 7, 1982.

A source told the Daily Beast that a full copy of these text message conversations was printed out from online At&T records and forwarded to the Secret Service and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in January 2020. Another undisclosed federal agency also later received a copy.

Greenberg resigned from his post in 2020 just one day after federal authorities charged him with his first indictment, which included allegations of harassing and stalking a political opponent. As authorities uncovered just how far this bizarre rabbit hole goes, his rap sheet has grown to include a whopping 33 charges, including wire fraud, misuse of driver’s license information, aggravated assault, and human trafficking.

And as horrible as those are, they aren’t even the wildest charges. Greenburg is also accused of using $90,000 in taxpayer money to build a cryptocurrency mining rig in his personal office and embezzling $400,000 in government funds to buy and sell cryptocurrency.

As for the congressman, authorities have been investigating Gaetz since last summer over alleged violations of federal sex trafficking laws, for which a conviction carries a 10-year mandatory minimum prison sentence, the New York Times reports. Sources told CNN this week that even before this investigation came to light, Gaetz gained a reputation on Capitol Hill for oversharing about his sexual escapades, which he purportedly bragged about frequently and even shared photos and videos with other lawmakers of nude women he claimed to have slept with.

Gaetz, for his part, has vehemently denied the sex trafficking allegations and claims he’s being targeted as part of some elaborate extortion scheme. On Friday, his communications director abruptly stepped down in the face of mounting pressure amid the scandal. However, Gaetz apparently doesn’t intend to go down without a fight, and has since confirmed he does not plan to resign, the Wall Street Journal reports.

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