Sources say that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) could be charged in a federal sex trafficking investigation as soon as next month.
ABC News reports that the criminal investigation has intensified in recent weeks as investigators have begun questioning more women who were introduced to the Florida Republican through his friend Joel Greenberg, who pleaded guilty to sex trafficking, stalking, identity theft, wire fraud, and conspiracy to bribe a public official.
According to the network, Greenberg is ready to hand up evidence and testimony against Gaetz and others, and prosecutors could decide whether to charge the lawmaker as early as July.
In May, the former tax collector admitted to a variety of offenses, including stalking, identity theft, wire fraud, conspiracy to bribe a public officer, and sex trafficking. Greenberg is willing to hand over material and testimony that could expose Gaetz and others.
The second wave of target letters and subpoenas were issued out last month after the former Seminole County tax collector acknowledged sex trafficking a 17-year-old girl who eventually went on to work in pornography and introducing her to other “adult men.”
Investigators have recently focused their attention on contracts worth $1.5 million in taxpayer funds that Greenberg awarded through his prior elected office, which were judged to be unneeded and wasteful by an independent audit last year.
Investigators have contacted Keith Ingersoll, whose firm KI Consulting had a $48,000 contract with the IRS that spanned from January 2017 to September 2020, according to ABC News sources. Despite the multi-year contract and workers at the tax office being “unaware of what this group did” the audit discovered “no evidence of work product” by Ingersoll’s group.
In May, it was reported that Greenberg’s close acquaintances, including Gaetz and long-time friend Joe Ellicott, were being questioned by authorities. The grand jury is apparently examining alleged crimes “including commercial sex acts with adult and underage women as well as obstruction of justice,” according to a subpoena received by one colleague. It also asked for any interactions, papers, recordings, or payments the person had with Ellicott, Gaetz, or Greenberg from 2016 to the present.
Ellicott, who worked as an assistant deputy tax collector for the tax office, has a long connection with Greenberg, having served as a groomsman at the former tax collector’s wedding and co-hosting a local sports-themed radio show before Greenberg ran for the government.
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According to insiders, Ellicott could be a major witness in the ongoing sex traffic inquiry, and he looks to have information that could be damning to others besides Greenberg and Gaetz. Ellicott allegedly told Greenberg last August in a private text discussion using the encrypted messaging app Signal that a mutual acquaintance was concerned she would be entangled in the investigation into the sex ring involving a juvenile.
“She is scared because she knew [the minor] was underage the whole time, had sex with her, and they both went [to] see other guys they had met together,” according to private messages that were obtained by ABC News.
Ellicott allegedly advised a mutual acquaintance in separate private Snapchat chats obtained by ABC News to push the young woman, who was no longer a juvenile at the time, to avoid speaking with law enforcement because federal authorities were following her for interrogation.
“She needs to delay them, hold them off and just not answer them,” Ellicott allegedly wrote over the messaging app before the message was deleted, according to photos taken with a separate phone and later viewed by ABC News.
Ellicott would later write that the minor needed to find a lawyer and that he would be heading over to speak with her that day.
“I’m heading over there now… The lady isn’t doing her any favors — she drove all the way to cause trouble for her,” Ellicott wrote, referring to the officer that was looking to speak with the then underage girl.
While prosecutors have Greenberg’s cooperation in the case, the former tax collector’s integrity could be a problem if more indictments are issued. Greenberg admitted to paying a 17-year-old girl for sex and “introducing the child to other adult men who engaged in commercial sex acts,” according to his plea deal.
When contacted for a response, a Gaetz spokeswoman called the inquiry a “partisan smear job.” Gaetz has angrily denied any wrongdoing and has consistently denied ever paying for sex or having sex with a child, despite the fact that he has not been charged with any crimes. He has proudly launched a rally tour around the country and has made light of the claims on several occasions.
According to ABC News, the probe into Gaetz began last year, when Donald Trump was still president. According to the sources, then-Attorney General Bill Barr was informed of the investigation’s progress multiple times.
Greenberg admitted to six of the 33 federal crimes he faced in May, including sex trafficking of a minor. While Greenberg’s plea agreement specifies that he would continue to assist prosecutors, the government also noted that it has the right to pursue him on the other charges if he violates any of the provisions of the cooperation agreement.
When asked if the guilty deal could cause problems for other officials during Greenberg’s plea hearing in May, his lawyer, Fritz Schiller, joked, “does my client have information that could hurt an elected official?” Schiller said. “I guess this is must-see television. You’ll just have to wait and see.”
A plane carrying a banner reading “Tick Tock Matt Gaetz” had flown over the federal courtroom in Orlando earlier that day.