Back in 2019, Rep. Matt Gaetz’s attended a GOP fundraiser in Orlando, Florida. The woman that was his date that night was someone he knew very well. She was a paid escort and an aspiring Instagram model. After the fundraiser, two witnesses say that Gaetz and the woman led a cocaine-fueled after party.
According to the Daily Beast a source familiar with the investigation, Gaetz’s former wingman, Joel Greenberg, will reveal the escort to investigators as one of more than 15 young women Gaetz paid for sex.
Megan Zalonka, however, stands out because she turned her friendship with Greenberg into a taxpayer-funded no-show job that paid her between $7,000 and $17,500, according to three sources and government documents obtained by The Daily Beast.
Gaetz was the featured speaker at the “Trump Defender Gala” fundraiser at the Westgate Lake Resort in Orlando on Oct. 26, 2019. Friends reconvened at Gaetz’s hotel room for an after-party, where Zalonka prepared lines of cocaine on the bathroom counter, according to two witnesses. One of the witnesses recalls Zalonka taking the drugs from her makeup bag, rolling a bill of money, and snorting the cocaine with Gaetz.
It has not been confirmed whether Gaetz paid for and had sex with Zalonka that night, however, two sources stated that the pair had a long-standing financial relationship in exchange for sexual favors.
Gaetz claims he has never paid for sex, but the sources say that “she was just one of the many pieces of arm candy he had. “
The US Secret Service, which launched the investigation into Greenberg after reports that he used county resources to mine Bitcoin, declined to comment on the ongoing investigation. Investigators have not asked Zalonka, according to federal prosecutors in the Middle District of Florida. Attorney-client privilege prevented Greenberg’s attorney from commenting.
Gaetz’s hired public relations firm, Logan Circle Group, issued the following statement: “Congressman Gaetz won’t be commenting on whether he dated or didn’t date specific women. The privacy of women living private lives should be protected.” Harlan Hill, the president of the refused to comment on any questions about cocaine use.
Zalonka’s attorney told The Daily Beast that she “is not speaking to any media outlet.” However, Mark J. O’Brien, a criminal defense lawyer, added that the allegations were not “accurate” but would not elaborate any further.
According to three sources with direct knowledge of the investigation, federal investigators are looking into Greenberg’s suspected position as the congressman’s go-to contact for coordinating paid sexual encounters. Greenberg is set to enter a guilty plea to six felonies on Monday and is expected to testify against his former friend.
Greenberg sent Zalonka $4,000 on Venmo during his first year in office in 2017, mainly in $500 increments. Zalonka is an aspiring fashion model and the marketing director for the American Medical Marijuana Physicians Association. Greenberg, who is married, gave a variety of reasons for paying Zalonka. He charged her $500 for “Things,” another $500 for “Other stuff” [sic], and $1,000 for “Pool” in the memo fields of his Venmo payments. He charged her $500 for “Food” and another $500 for “Appetizers” on a single day in November.
However, Zalonka’s contacts with Greenberg in 2017 evolved into a legitimate business partnership. According to emails between Greenberg and Zalonka obtained by The Daily Beast, she was in close contact with him in December of that year as she formed her own firm, MZ Strategy Group LLC. Greenberg granted her a county contract the following month, agreeing to pay her $3,500 per month for “digital content management” and “social media interaction creation.”
According to an overview of Greenberg’s government expenditures collected via a public records request, Zalonka’s company received $3,500 in Seminole County taxpayer funds in January and April 2018. County-contracted auditors with the Florida forensic accounting company MSL later flagged those payments as “questionable or unaccounted for the transaction.” And the tax office’s chief financial officer, who handled the payments, admitted in her reports that she had no idea what they were for.
Other $3,500 installments were flagged by auditors in February, March, and May of that year, in the form of irregular cash advances made directly to Greenberg—but Greenberg never explained why those withdrawals were made. After that, the proceedings seem to have stopped.
According to four people familiar with Zalonka’s deal, it was a “no-show” contract. They said that Zalonka never worked at the office and that it was unclear what service she offered. Tax collector employees told accountant Daniel J. O’Keefe, who headed the forensic investigation of Greenberg’s alleged self-dealing, that the woman behind the business was a mystery. O’Keefe went on to say that he couldn’t find any evidence that Zalonka ever offered the services mentioned in her contract with Greenberg.
“I have no idea what they were doing. And employees wouldn’t know what they were doing. Totally a no-show job,” O’Keefe said. “There’s no work product, no evidence work was done. It’s just unbelievable.”
Greenberg’s Venmo transactions, which involve payments to more than 40 women, include Zalonka’s name prominently. According to financial reports, those women were paid hundreds of dollars for memo things like “salad,” “lemons,” and “ass” Sources stated that the payments were made in part because Greenberg planned to have sex with them.
During a 2018 encounter at the Duval Hotel in Tallahassee, three young women paid by Greenberg, who spoke to The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity, put Zalonka in the bed.
Greenberg and a group of “well-connected Republican guys” bought the women drinks at the hotel bar, knowing their ages, and then led them to a room with “a big pile of coke,” according to one of the women, who was a 19-year-old student at nearby Florida State University at the time. One of the women remembered the men wanting to have sex with the teenagers and implying that Zalonka, who was present, would join in. According to one of the former students and screenshots of a conversation between the three women, when the teens declined, Greenberg, Zalonka, and another man went into a related room to have sex.
Greenberg paid for a trip to Tallahassee with Seminole County taxpayer money at the same time, according to financial documents. Zalonka had signed her marketing deal weeks before the encounter.
Zalonka’s experiences with Greenberg’s circle also included Gaetz. Zalonka joined the American Medical Marijuana Physicians Association (AMMPA), a cannabis legalization organization with strong links to Gaetz, as a spokesperson in mid-2018. In 2018, the congressman was honored as a guest of honor at two of the organization’s conventions, and he also attended the annual meeting the previous year in October. Greenberg also attended the 2017 conference, which included Republican operative and Trump supporter Roger Stone, who spoke at a Gaetz fundraiser after the congressman’s keynote address. On Oct. 5, Greenberg used Venmo to give Zalonka $500 for “Rent” around midday.
Gaetz and Greenberg have similar links to other AMMPA officials. Gaetz names executive director Savara Hastings and her partner, AMMPA chairman Jason Pirozzolo, as some of his “best friends” in his book Firebrand, which was released last September. Gaetz also claims to have spent New Year’s Eve in the Florida Keys with the pair, and he has Instagram photos of Hastings in Pirozzolo’s private plane dating back to 2014.
According to CNN, Gaetz’s relationships with young women and cannabis industry connections are being investigated by the Justice Department’s Public Integrity division as part of an investigation into whether he was given sex from escorts in return for political favors. The investigation into Greenberg’s involvement in an alleged prostitution ring, which involves suspected sex crimes with a 17-year-old child, has since morphed into one into Gaetz’s role in an alleged prostitution ring.
If Greenberg completes a mediation deal that could turn him into a government witness against Gaetz and others, the investigation could obtain a valuable new tool. Greenberg wrote a confession letter while on leave during the final months of Trump’s presidency, saying he witnessed acts involving Gaetz and the underage teen “first hand.”
Gaetz, on the other hand, has not been charged with a crime, and the government has not officially admitted the existence of an investigation into him. Gaetz has also dismissed all allegations stating on March 31 that the last time he had sex with a 17-year-old was when he was 17.
According to news accounts, Zalonka issued a grand jury subpoena in August 2020, the month federal prosecutors filed a superseding indictment against Greenberg to include the sex trafficking allegations. AMMPA canceled its annual October conference for the first time in a Facebook post the following month, citing COVID concerns. Since then, the community hasn’t shared anything.
Gaetz, on the other hand, continued to communicate with Zalonka online. On March 11, he commented on an Instagram photo of Zalonka with the caption “Smiling ninjas!” Zalonka, on the other hand, made her Instagram private after a story about Greenberg’s suspicious Venmo transactions was released. Her account seems to have disappeared completely in recent weeks.