Rep. Matt Gaetz says he's victim of 'organized criminal extortion' amid report linking him to sex trafficking probe

Florida congressman claims former Department of Justice employee seeking $25 million 'while threatening to smear my name'
Matt Gaetz speaks at CPAC 2021
Posted at 8:32 PM, Mar 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-30 23:21:32-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A Florida congressman claims he is the victim "of an organized criminal extortion" by a former Department of Justice official after a New York Times report published Tuesday contends he is the subject of a federal sex trafficking probe.

According to the New York Times, citing three people familiar with the investigation, the Department of Justice is examining whether U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel with him.

The report said investigators are trying to determine if Gaetz possibly violated federal sex trafficking laws.

Gaetz, whose congressional district covers the westernmost portion of Florida's panhandle, took to Twitter to refute the allegations, claiming that he and his family have been victims of a former Department of Justice official "seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name."

"We have been cooperating with federal authorities in this matter and my father has even been wearing a wire at the FBI's discretion to catch these criminals," Gaetz wrote in a series of tweets. "The planted leak to the FBI tonight was intended to thwart that investigation. No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation."

The report claims the investigation came about as part of a broader investigation into former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg, who resigned last year after his arrest on several federal charges, including sex trafficking of a child.

Greenberg visited the White House with Gaetz in 2019, posing for a photograph together, along with former state Republican lawmaker Chris Dorworth, on Twitter.

No charges have been brought against Gaetz at this time.

"I demand the DOJ immediately release the tapes, made at their direction, which implicate their former colleague in crimes against me based on false allegations," Gaetz wrote.