Text messages that allegedly sparked a federal sex crimes probe into US Rep. Matt Gaetz emerged Friday in a new report.
They are purported to show that Gaetz (R-Fla.) was with Joel Greenberg, a Seminole County tax official who’s under investigation for child sex trafficking, at the office he allegedly used to make fake IDs, the Daily Beast reported.
During a weekend in April 2018, Greenberg went to the Lake Mary, Florida, arm of his tax collection agency with Gaetz, the outlet reported, citing sources and images of text messages.
Greenberg was spotted on grainy surveillance video standing near a manager’s desk with another man, the outlet reported, citing three people with direct knowledge of the incident.
When the assistant branch manager arrived at the office the following Monday, she found driver’s licenses, which are typically handed over to the tax office for shredding when they are expired, scattered all over a desk instead of in the appropriate disposal basket, the outlet said.
The Orlando Sentinel spoke to a source who reviewed video surveillance of the incident and said it shows Greenberg going through the basket where the soon-to-be discard driver’s licenses are held and then going into a back room.
The woman was surprised to see the state of the office, so she reviewed the camera footage, saw Greenberg and the other man he was with, and alerted her boss who then texted Greenberg about it, the Daily Beast said.
“Did you happen to visit the Lake Mary Office on the weekend?” an image of the text message, dated April 16, 2018, and obtained by the Daily Beast, reads.
“Yes I was showing congressman Gaetz what our operation looked like. Did I leave something on?” Greenberg allegedly responded, the image shows.
Gaetz and Greenberg are longtime political allies — the two were both rising stars in Florida’s Republican Party in 2016 when the rep was first elected and they’ve taken selfies together at numerous, high-profile events over the years, including at AIPAC and the White House, the outlet reported. In 2017, Gaetz endorsed Greenberg during an interview, calling him “a disrupter” who should run for congress.
Greenberg is facing a 33-count indictment for a series of crimes, including making fake IDs, which is apparently why the 2018 interaction with Gaetz came under the feds’ microscope.
Prosecutors state in Greenberg’s indictment that he used his position as an elected official to look up information about a girl between the ages of 14 and 17 in order “to produce a false identification document and to facilitate his efforts to engage in commercial sex acts,” the Sentinel reported.
Federal prosecutors allege Greenberg took surrendered driver’s licenses before they were shredded to also create fake IDs for himself that had his photo but the personal information of victims who’d dropped off their licenses at the tax office for disposal.
The Daily Beast obtained other images of text messages that purport to show Greenberg helping Gaetz, a longtime political ally, obtain duplicate IDs outside of proper channels on a Sunday afternoon in September. It’s unclear why Gaetz allegedly went to the office.
Images of text messages on Sept. 2, 2018, show Greenberg asked an employee to quickly make a new “REAL ID,” which complies with new, heightened security requirements and normally requires additional verification and documentation, the outlet reported.
“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 allegedly wrote, the images show.
He then said the favor was for “Matthew Louis Gaetz II,” born on May 7, 1982, which is the congressman’s birth date.
When Greenberg later became the subject of a federal investigation by the Secret Service for identity theft and stalking, agents spoke to employees who used to work at the tax office to get proof of the official’s activities, which is when they were directed to Gaetz, the outlet said.
At the end of January 2020, the full text message conversation with Greenberg was provided to the Secret Service, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and recently, another federal agency, the outlet reported.
On Tuesday, the New York Times reported Gaetz is being probed by the Justice Department for allegedly paying a 17-year-old for sex and enticing her to travel.
Gaetz has repeatedly and emphatically denied the allegations, saying they are nothing but an elaborate extortion attempt.
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