Gaetz Gate Just Took a Turn for the Worse, and There are Receipts
The crescendoing comeuppance of soon-to-be ex-Congressman Matt Gaetz, the Florida Republican facing possible federal sex trafficking charges, took a not-too-unpredictable yet nonetheless potentially devastating turn on Thursday night when The New York Times reported that it had obtained some of Gaetz’s financial records.
Katie Benner and Michael Schmidt, the investigative journalists who on Tuesday evening broke the story about the Justice Department’s probe into Gaetz and his wingman, Joe Greenberg, a former tax collector, wrote that the two men became involved 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.”
It turns out, however, that masterminds Gaetz and Greenberg were sloppy, the paper learned, as they had left behind quite the trail of digital breadcrumbs:
The Times has reviewed receipts from Cash App, a mobile payments app, and Apple Pay that show payments from Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Greenberg to one of the women, and a payment from Mr. Greenberg to a second woman. The women told their friends that the payments were for sex with the two men, according to two people familiar with the conversations.
Some of the men and women took ecstasy, an illegal mood-altering drug, before having sex, including Mr. Gaetz, two people familiar with the encounters said.
In some cases, Mr. Gaetz asked women to help find others who might be interested in having sex with him and his friends, according to two people familiar with those conversations. Should anyone inquire about their relationships, one person said, Mr. Gaetz told the women to say that he had paid for hotel rooms and dinners as part of their dates.
Sketchy as they were, those actions are most likely not what could be the nail in the coffin for Gaetz, the Times explained.
This is where it gets bad:
It is not illegal to provide adults with free hotel stays, meals and other gifts, but if prosecutors think they can prove that the payments to the women were for sex, they could accuse Mr. Gaetz of trafficking the women under ‘force, fraud or coercion.’ For example, prosecutors have filed trafficking charges against people suspected of providing drugs in exchange for sex because feeding another person’s drug habit could be seen as a form of coercion.