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Tag: matt gaetz investigation

Convicted Florida Shock Jock Offers Cooperation In Gaetz Probe

The guilty plea entered by a former Florida shock jock in connection with yet another bizarre criminal case may indicate that federal investigators are closing in on Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL).

According to The Daily Beast, Joseph “Big Joe” Ellicott, one of Gaetz's associates believed to have key information about his alleged sex trafficking case, entered his plea this week in federal court.

On January 18, according to court documents, Ellicott signed the plea agreement in connection with two different crimes. He was reportedly accused of committing fraud when he agreed "to 'pay bribes and kickbacks' to a public official and a separate drug crime: illegally selling the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder prescription medicine Adderall."

According to prosecutors, Ellicott was the intermediary in the kickback arrangement, carrying a $6,000 cash bribe from an unnamed tax office contractor to a Public Official—Greenberg. In exchange for the bribe, Greenberg and the contractor worked out a deal where the contractor inflated invoices for work with the tax office, pocketing the difference.

The former jock is also said to have sold more than $5,000 in Adderall to one client, in particular, over a two-year period.

Speaking to the Beast, Joe Zwick, Ellicott's attorney, also indicated that his client has been cooperative with federal investigators as they continue the probe into the sex trafficking case against the Republican lawmaker.

“This investigation had nothing to do with the sex scandal, but with the unprecedented things Greenberg was doing with the tax office. The big difference is that Joel Greenberg was elected to serve the people, and Joe was not. And the fact that this was done by criminal information not an indictment is pretty telling of how the prosecutors view him in this case,” Zwick said as he noted that Ellicott had not been arrested. “Obviously they value his continued cooperation, as he does as well. We are going to set off sentencing as long as we can, and do everything we can to reduce his time.”

Ellicott is reportedly a longtime friend of Joel Greenberg, a former tax collector in Seminole County, Florida, who has been described as Gaetz's "wingman in the underage sex operation," per inside sources with knowledge of their relationship.

The embattled former shock jock's plea follows The Daily Beast's previous report which "revealed that Ellicott knew intimate details about the teenage girl who was paid for sex by the group—and actually texted what essentially amounted to a confession that they were scrambling to try and coverup details about their sex with a 17-year-old from the feds."

Per the latest report published by the Beast, Ellicott's professional involvement with Greenberg appears to have been a major factor in the case investigators built against him. Greenberg, who faces sentencing for multiple charges including "trafficking a minor, stalking a political opponent, producing fake IDs, identity theft, embezzlement, and bribery," is said to have also had a habit of employing friends for "no-show jobs" at his tax agency.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Federal Prosecutor Calls Gaetz Crony ‘A Prolific Criminal' Who 'Was Not Alone

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Matt Gaetz may not be talking, but his partner in crime certainly is. Joel Greenberg, a former Florida tax commissioner, has been spilling the beans to the Justice Department (DOJ) following a guilty plea he took earlier this year.

During a brief hearing on Monday in Orlando, Florida, Greenberg was given a second delay in his sentencing after Roger Handberg, an assistant U.S. attorney, told the judge that "the evidence takes us places, and, frankly, it takes us places we did not anticipate."

In May Greenberg, who faced dozens of federal charges, pled guilty to six, including knowingly soliciting and paying for sex with a minor. Part of his plea deal requires him to give "substantial assistance" to investigators—which we're sure is making his sidekick Gaetz quake in his boots.

Greenberg was scheduled to be sentenced on November 18 for his crimes, but prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell to give them until March, in order to continue following up on Greenberg's information to investigators.

"Mr. Greenberg was a prolific criminal," Handberg said in open court, according to Politico.

"Mr. Greenberg was not alone. This is an unusual situation in the number of different investigations and lines of investigation we are pursuing," Handberg said, explaining that the extension was necessary "because of the need to follow up on some of these leads."Gaetz's involvement wasn't mentioned in court Monday, but investigators are exploring a 2017 case in which he allegedly paid to have sex with a 17-year-old girl, Greenberg introduced him to. Gaetz has not yet been charged with any crimes and has denied having sex with any minors. He is, however, under investigation for obstruction of justice for phoning a witness during the ongoing probe into a sex crimes case, a law enforcement source confirmed to NBC News.

Politico reports that prosecutors have been looking at a trip to the Bahamas Gaetz took in 2018 to see if the congressman, along with Halsey Beshears, then a state legislator, and Jason Pirozzolo, a hand surgeon and GOP fundraiser for Gov. Ron DeSantis, violated the Mann Act, which outlaws people from crossing state lines to engage in prostitution. Also on the trip was the victim of sex trafficking, who may have been under 18 at the time. Smarmy as this all is, there's another very Jeffery Epstein-like tangle: another buddy of Greenberg's, Joe Ellicott, is being investigated for sex-trafficking a 17-year-old in 2017.

Greenberg faces a mandatory minimum of 12 years in prison, but could be sentenced longer—all depends on how hard he'll turn against his supposed allies. He will also be required to pay at least $655,000 in restitution to his victims, including Seminole County taxpayers. "[Greenberg] is on a path of rehabilitation, and to a lesser extent, redemption," said Greenberg's defense attorney Fritz Scheller

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Under Trafficking Probe, Gaetz Likens FBI To ‘Worst Days Of Soviet Union’

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) compared efforts by the FBI to combat violent extremism to actions taken by the former Soviet Union, which he called a "repressive security state."

Gaetz appeared on the conservative Newsmax TV's Cortes & Pellegrino to discuss a recent tweet that was released by the FBI.

In the July 11 tweet, the FBI wrote, "family members and peers are often best positioned to witness signs of mobilization to violence" and gives advice on signs to look out for to "prevent homegrown violent extremism."

Gaetz criticized the tone of the tweet.

"This harkens to a darker day," said Gaetz. "Back during the worst days of the Soviet Union, 1 out of every 3 of the folks in that country was providing some sort of information to a centralized governing authority and so snitching really is a tool of the repressive security state."

Gaetz also claimed later in the interview that the tweet wasn't "really a sincere attempt to engage in law enforcement" and "is an attempt to identify people based on their politics."

Despite Gaetz's allegations, neither the FBI's tweet nor the document the tweet links to suggests reporting people over their political beliefs.

The agency is currently in the midst of a massive investigation of the January 6 attack on the Capitol, when several violent extremists supporting former President Donald Trump breached the building in an attempt to overturn Trump's loss in the 2020 presidential election. Over 500 people have been arrested and charged with federal offenses.

In recent months, Gaetz has repeatedly attacked the FBI. Along with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), he has even pushed a baseless claim that the agency organized the Capitol attack. He has also suggested that the FBI was to blame for the COVID-19 viral outbreak.

Gaetz's attack on the FBI comes at the same time that he has been under federal investigation relating to the possible sex trafficking of an underage girl.

Gaetz has not been alone in attacking the FBI for investigating violent extremism. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TX) recently described the tweet in question from the FBI as "over the top."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Report: Chat Logs Show Greenberg ‘In A Panic’ Over FBI Investigation

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Unlike his ally Joel Greenberg — the Florida county tax collector who is facing federal sex trafficking charges — Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida hasn't yet been charged with federal crimes. Gaetz has vehemently denied suggestions that he was sexually involved with a 17-year-old girl, but that possibility is reported to be investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice. And a WhatsApp chat from August 14, 2020 that Politico has obtained information on sheds some light on the charges that Greenberg is facing.

According to Politico reporters Marc Caputo, Josh Gerstein, and Matt Dixon, Greenberg was part of that WhatsApp chat along with a Republican ally and was "in a panic" because he knew that "the feds were closing in."

"The Florida county tax collector was five days away from a federal indictment for sex trafficking involving a 17-year-old — the same one Gaetz is now being investigated over," the Politico reporters explain. "So, Greenberg reached out to mutual friends on August 14 last year and tried to enlist them in his defense, according to a WhatsApp chat shared with federal investigators and obtained by Politico."

In those WhatsApp messages, according to Caputo, Gerstein, and Dixon, Greenberg "fumed that the prosecutor should be fired. He suspected that a political consultant 'was the rat here'…. Greenberg also said he was paying the legal fees for the woman, who is now 20 years old."

Greenberg, the reporters note, "even went so far as to push Gaetz to use his influence with" then-President Donald Trump "for a pardon, according to two sources familiar with the discussions — including one who heard Greenberg say it repeatedly."

But Gaetz, according to Caputo, Gerstein and Dixon, has said that he didn't ask Trump to pardon Greenberg.

In that August 14, 2020 WhatsApp chat, Greenberg communicated with a Republican who the Politico reporters describe as "politically influential" and a "mutual friend" of Greenberg and Gaetz. That person discussed the chat with Politico, saying that Greenberg referred to the 17-year-old girl — who is an adult now — as "Vintage 99" during the chat.

Greenberg wrote, "I'm having to pay for vintage 99 to retain (a) lawyer. They (federal agents) contacted her and are wanting her to talk. She doesn't want to talk to them."

Caputo, Gerstein and Dixon note that "Vintage 99" does not want to talk to the media either, adding, "She blocked a Politico reporter on social media and her iPhone after she was called and texted to discuss the case Monday. Her attorney couldn't be reached. Politico is withholding her name because she is the alleged victim of a sex crime."

Gaetz Vows He’s ‘Absolutely Not Resigning’ Despite GOP Pressure

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

As the scandal around Rep. Matt Gaetz grows, the Florida Republican Congressman is trying to push back, with a former staffer holding a press event during which he admits he has no evidence that Gaetz is innocent -- and Gaetz himself publishing an op-ed in a right wing media outlet promising to not resign.

"I am absolutely not resigning," Gaetz says in the Washington Examiner, insisting the calls for him to call it quits are hypocritical and pushback because he "decided to take on the most powerful institutions in the Beltway."

He insists he's not guilty of a few very specific allegations: "I have never, ever paid for sex. And second, I, as an adult man, have not slept with a 17-year-old."

And in very typical MAGA mode, Gaetz told his supporters, "They aren't coming for me — they are coming for you. I'm just in the way."

Meanwhile, in a curious twist, Republican leadership has announced they will call for Gaetz to resign, but only if he's indicted, and they won't wait for Democrats to demand he step down, MSNBC's Kyle Griffin says, citing Punchbowl News.Democrats are putting pressure on Gaetz and the Republican leadership.

"If in fact these allegations are true, of course being removed from the Judiciary Committee is the least that could be done," Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters late last week, the AP reports, noting that "Pelosi's comments fell short of the swift removal from the Judiciary Committee sought by at least one Democratic lawmaker."

The Speaker added: "From what we've heard so far, this would be a matter for the Ethics Committee."

And Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu of California last week tweeted to House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, "You don't seem to get it. If it's true Rep Matt Gaetz engaged in sex trafficking, he needs to resign and be prosecuted. In the meantime, you can't have Gaetz sitting on the Congressional Committee that has oversight over the Department that is investigating him."

Gaetz Boasted Of ‘Access’ To Woman Via Alleged Sex Trafficker

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has reportedly been very vocal about his alleged ties to the former Florida tax collector currently facing federal charges for alleged sex trafficking.

According to The Washington Post, the Florida lawmaker is said to have boasted about having access to women through former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg. Two insiders familiar with the situation have shared details about the lawmaker's claims and how he reportedly had no qualms about discussing his alleged relationships.

"Matt was never shy about talking about his relationship to Joel and the access to women that Joel provided him," said one of the insiders who requested anonymity. "What these videos implied was that there was something of a sexual nature going on with everyone."

Greenberg is currently facing a child sex trafficking charge in addition to a number of other charges. While Gaetz has not been charged, investigators are reportedly exploring a number of possibilities where the lawmaker is concerned. Gaetz is also "suspected of patronizing websites that allow men to set up dates with women in exchange for dinners or hotel stays, a person familiar with the matter said. It is not a crime to use such services unless money is exchanged explicitly for sex."

Another insider familiar with the scandal has also noted that investigators "are exploring allegations that Gaetz and others used illegal drugs during some of their encounters with women."

In addition to this claim, Gaetz allegedly showed nude photos and videos of women to other lawmakers on the House floor, as previously reported by Alternet. At the time, CNN also reported that one of the video clips featured a naked woman standing with a hula hoop.

The latest report comes just days after Gaetz denied the allegations against him. On Friday, the Post contacted the Republican lawmaker for comment about the claims alleging that he bragged about meeting women through Greenberg. In a message sent via text message, Gaetz responded with a denial of all the allegations.

"I have never paid for sex. I have never had sex with an underage person as an adult," Gaetz wrote. "I have dated women in college and graduate school, and have boasted about how great they are across the board, as boyfriends do. At times women I have dated have joined me at campaign events."

Fox News Went 30 Hours Without Mentioning Gaetz Scandal

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

In an extraordinary attempt at GOP damage control, Fox News failed to make any mention, for more than an entire day, of the exploding sex trafficking scandal that's engulfing Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL), a close ally of the network. Opting instead for a total blackout, Fox News tried and failed to quell the raging controversy, which on Thursday night hit new heights with another round of explosive revelations.

But at Fox News, it's Gaetz who?

According to TVeyes, the 24-hour cable news monitoring service, Fox News mentioned "Matt Gaetz" just 17 times all day Wednesday and all day Thursday of last week. In fact, the network aired zero mentions of Gaetz on Thursday, and the final mention of him came Wednesday at 6:22 pm. That means for more than 30 hours, Fox News didn't reference the Congressman a single time. During that same period, CNN mentioned Gaetz 70 times, MSNBC more than 80 times.

Suffice it to say that if a prominent Democrat found him or herself at the center of a scandal as lurid as Gaetz's, who's under investigation in a federal sex trafficking probe involving a 17-year-old girl, Fox News would have hyped the story hundreds of times during the week. Fox News would have been in nonstop scandal mode demanding answers, pressing for Congressional inquiries, and denouncing the moral bankruptcy of the Democratic Party.

But with one of its closest allies under federal fire, the best Fox News can do is pretend nothing is happening. Instead of opting for covering the story lightly, Fox News went straight to banning it.

Obviously an attempt to erase a story as big and breaking as the Gaetz scandal doesn't happen by accident. We're witnessing a deliberate, top-down attempt by Fox News to unplug an important political story simply because the man at the center is a Republican and a vociferous Trump loyalist who loudly claimed the 2020 election had been stolen. In fact, Gaetz owes his career to Fox News and the hundreds of appearances he's made on the network in recent years.

"His combination of bottomless self-confidence and a rich kid-honed skill at being a remorseless bully turned him into an aspirational figure for the Fox News audience, a role model for the trigger-the-liberals crowd," Salon's Amanda Marcotte noted this week. Suddenly though, the network doesn't want to say his name.

The blackout isn't working as the Gaetz scandal continues to gain momentum with each new blockbuster revelation. Two jaw-dropping reports came late Friday.

From the New York Times:

A Justice Department investigation into Representative Matt Gaetz and an indicted Florida politician is focusing on their involvement with multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments, according to people close to the investigation and text messages and payment receipts reviewed by The New York Times.

From CNN:

Gaetz allegedly showed off to other lawmakers photos and videos of nude women he said he had slept with, the sources told CNN, including while on the House floor. The sources, including two people directly shown the material, said Gaetz displayed the images of women on his phone and talked about having sex with them. One of the videos showed a naked woman with a hula hoop, according to one source.

This is, hands down, the most shocking scandal involving a sitting member of Congress in at least a decade. But Fox News remains on the sidelines, too nervous to cover the story.

Rupert Murdoch's Republican propaganda outlet likely knew it had a major problem on its hands with the Gaetz story when he appeared on Tucker Carlson's show last Tuesday night just as the scandal was breaking, and seemed to try to drag the host into the swamp.

"You and I went to dinner about two years ago, your wife was there, and I brought a friend of mine, you'll remember her," Gaetz said. Carlson, reportedly "pissed" about the interview, quickly denied remembering any such female friend and acted confused. He later told viewers the Gaetz segment was one of the "weirdest" interviews he had ever done.

And now Fox News is trying to flush the whole sordid story down the memory hole. But it's not going to work. The Republican bottom feeder, who has been groomed for right-wing stardom by Fox News, where his obnoxious and ignorant antics were celebrated, is now facing his time in the barrel.

Gaetz Reportedly Procured Women For Himself And Political Cronies

Shortly after Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz appeared on Tucker Carlson for an interview that was strange even by Carlson standards, he was raptured into conservative heaven, and has not been seen again upon this Earth. At least, that appears to be what has happened on Fox News, where Gaetz hasn't been mentioned in over 30 hours of programming.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, his story just keeps on expanding in ways that make the Florida Republican seem a lot less like a bumbling Lothario, and more like a man who was deeply engaged in multiple crimes. Far from being the victim of a plot to smear his good name, new information from The New York Times puts Gaetz at the center of the kind of sex trafficking ring that QAnon followers believe only exists in the cellars of pizza shops. One in which he apparently recruited women online and provided cash payments. Those payments appear to have included not just paying women to have sex with Gaetz, but with Florida Republican official Joel Greenberg, and an unidentified third man. And as a reminder, one of the women that Gaetz supposedly paid to travel across the country for sex, was also 17.

The longer the story goes on, the more it appears that charges of sex trafficking are highly appropriate. But as an unpleasant story gets even darker, there are still moments so jarringly ludicrous that they seem difficult to believe. For example, Gaetz is reported to have used Apple Pay, and paid women using the Cash app on his phone. Perhaps Matt Gaetz really is law-enforcement friendly, because he certainly seems to have made this case easy for them.

Sex work is an ancient profession, and sex workers need to be treated with dignity and protected rather than prosecuted. However, it doesn't appear that Gaetz reached out to sex workers in any kind of usual sense.

Instead, Gaetz and Greenberg reportedly worked together to recruit women through dating apps and online relationship sites. Then Gaetz provided the women with "gifts, fine dining, travel and allowances" in exchange for sex. Allowances here meaning cash payments.

In at least one case, the woman appears to have been someone that Gaetz and Greenberg knew through her association with Republican politics. That woman, with encouragement and payment from Gaetz and Greenberg, agreed to have sex with the unnamed third member of their sex trafficking ring.

On Thursday evening, ABC News reported that they had sources who confirmed much of the information in the Times article. That includes the information that Greenberg was indicted in 2020 for sex trafficking of a teenage girl in 2017. It's unclear if this is the same girl who Gaetz reportedly paid to travel. Greenberg has pleaded not guilty,

As the Orlando Sentinel reported on Thursday, the charges against Greenberg extend beyond allegations of sex trafficking, and into … just about everything. There's stalking a political opponent; illegally obtaining $432,000 by creating a pair of front companies to grab up small business loans under the COVID-19 relief program; using funds from his official position as a tax collector to buy Michael Jordan memorabilia, and defrauding the county by embezzling funds to buy cryptocurrency. In short, Matt Gaetz's pal appears to have never met a law he didn't like … to break.

Gaetz and Greenberg appear have engaged in their online "recruiting" business for at least two years, working out arrangements for women to meet them at hotels and pre-negotiating payment.

Gaetz and Greenberg's relationship apparently goes back to the point where both Gaetz and his father were in the Florida legislature. According to sources at ABC, women referred to Matt as "Creepy Gaetz," and he was frequently seen trying to pick up students from a nearby college.

In an earlier interview with Axios, Gaetz admitted that he had broken out his billfold (or Cash app) on multiple occasions. "I have definitely, in my single days, provided for women I've dated. You know, I've paid for flights, for hotel rooms. I've been, you know, generous as a partner." But Gaetz denied that he had done anything illegal. "I think someone is trying to make that look criminal when it is not."

In a statement released to the New York Times, Gaetz's office went heavily into the never suspicious third person: "Matt Gaetz has never paid for sex, Matt Gaetz refutes all the disgusting allegations completely. Matt Gaetz has never ever been on any such websites whatsoever. Matt Gaetz cherishes the relationships in his past and looks forward to marrying the love of his life."

It's interesting that in the Axios interview Gaetz referred to his "single days" and the statement issued to the Times notes that Gaetz is looking forward to his upcoming wedding. Gaetz became engaged in December. But the FBI is reportedly interviewing women that Gaetz paid for sex "as recently as January."

That would seem to indicate that Gaetz was still engaged in these acts a month after he became engaged to be married. It also shows that he was still carrying on more than six months after Greenberg was arrested and indicted.

Eventually, Fox will have to mention all this. But don't worry. They've surely prepped the "Rep. Matt Gaetz (D)" chyron by now.