Citing multiple sources, CBS News reports that federal investigators are examining an alleged trip to the Bahamas taken by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) in late 2018 or 2019 as they investigate whether Gaetz violated sex trafficking laws.
Gaetz was on that trip with a marijuana entrepreneur and hand surgeon named Jason Pirozzolo, who allegedly paid for the travel expenses, accommodations, and female escorts, the sources said.
Investigators are trying to determine if the escorts were illegally trafficked across state or international lines for the purpose of sex with the congressman.
“Traveling across state lines is what creates a federal hook for a prosecution,” Arlo Devlin-Brown, a former prosecutor and partner at Covington & Burling, said in a report that aired on the “CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell.” “It doesn’t matter that [Gaetz] personally paid them as long as he knows someone is doing that.”
The sources told CBS News that investigators are also looking into whether Gaetz accepted paid escorts in exchange for political access or legislative favors.
The report noted that Gaetz “introduced the Medical Cannabis Research Act in April 2018 and again in January 2019, though it never came to a vote.” Pirozzolo mentioned the Florida Republican’s efforts on this legislation during a July 2018 podcast with Ganjapreneur.com.
Pirozzolo is the co-founder and chairman of the board of the Medical Marijuana Physicians Association (AMMPA), and Gaetz was a speaker at two of the organization’s conferences. The first took place in October 2017 when Gaetz was joined by Trump ally Roger Stone. According to the Central Florida Post, the conference was immediately followed by a fundraiser for Gaetz’s congressional campaign. The second was in May 2018 at the group’s “NFL and Medical Cannabis Conference” in Miami.
CBS News reported that both Pirozzolo and the Justice Department declined to comment.
A Gaetz spokesperson offered the following statement:
“Rep. Gaetz has never paid for sex, nor has he had sex with an underage girl. What began with blaring headlines about ‘sex trafficking’ has now turned into a general fishing exercise about vacations and consensual relationships with adults. Yesterday, we even learned of some nonsense ‘pardon’ story that turned out to be false, and today it’s just more euphemism. It’s interesting to watch the Washington wheels grinding so hard every time one of their falsehoods gets knocked down.”
Image credit: Screengrab / PBS NewsHour / YouTube