US politician Matt Gaetz, a close ally of Donald Trump, has for the past week been embroiled in a sordid sex scandal involving the alleged trafficking of an underage girl.
The New York Times reported last Wednesday that the Florida Republican congressman is being investigated over allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid her to travel with him.
The investigation, conducted by the US Justice Department, is in fact part of a larger probe into Joel Greenberg, a Florida official and close friend of Gaetz, who was indicted last summer on child sex trafficking charges.
Greenberg and Gaetz are alleged to have sought out women on so-called “sugar daddy” websites, on which young women are lavished with money and gifts by older men in exchange for sex.
An investigation by the Times found that one woman had been paid by Gaetz and Greenberg, while the latter paid a second woman. The women alleged to their friends that the payments were for sex with the two men.
The two men have also been identified on footage taken by a security camera several years ago entering a closed tax collector office on a weekend, and searching through a basket of expired drivers’ licenses.
The justice department alleges that Gaetz and Greenberg also paid for hotel rooms for women, where the group took the illicit drug ecstasy before having sex.
Gaetz and Greenberg have both vehemently denied the allegations. Gaetz went further, appearing on Fox News last week to sensationally claim that the Justice Department investigation was actually related to an attempt by a former government official to extort money from his family.
“On 16 March, my father got a text message demanding a meeting, wherein a person demanded $25m [R 363m] in exchange for making horrible sex trafficking allegations against me go away,” Gaetz said.
Gaetz, who was previously tipped by commentators to be a rising star in the Republican Party, and has made several public appearances alongside Donald Trump during his presidency.
Now, the congressman’s political career is under threat and his friend Trump is nowhere to be seen, and has reportedly been advised to remain silent.
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