According to The Daily Beast, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) in 2018 sent money via Venmo to accused sex trafficker Joel Greenberg, who subsequently used the same app to send the same amount of money to three young women, one of whom had turned 18 just several months before.
In two late-night Venmo transactions in May 2018, Rep. Matt Gaetz sent his friend, the accused sex trafficker Joel Greenberg, $900. The next morning, over the course of eight minutes, Greenberg used the same app to send three young women varying sums of money. In total, the transactions amounted to $900.
The memo field for the first of Gaetz’s transactions to Greenberg was titled “Test.” In the second, the Florida GOP congressman wrote “hit up ___.” But instead of a blank, Gaetz wrote a nickname for one of the recipients. (The Daily Beast is not sharing that nickname because the teenager had only turned 18 less than six months before.) When Greenberg then made his Venmo payments to these three young women, he described the money as being for “Tuition,” “School,” and “School.”
The Daily Beast examined these records as a scandal, rooted in a criminal case against Greenberg, engulfs Gaetz.
Per the report, Gaetz and Greenberg — who has been federally indicted on a total of 34 counts, including sex trafficking crimes related to a 17-year-old — “are both connected through Venmo to this then-18-year-old woman—who now works in the porn industry, according to a friend of the girl.”
This week, during the reporting of this story, Gaetz’s once-public list of Venmo transactions disappeared. Greenberg’s Venmo account is not currently publicly accessible. But The Daily Beast was able to obtain partial records of Greenberg’s past online transactions through a source.
Greenberg and Gaetz are also connected on Venmo to at least one other woman that Greenberg paid with taxpayer funds using a government-issued credit card. Seminole County auditors flagged hundreds of those payments as “questioned or unaccounted for,” and in total found more than $300,000 in suspicious or unjustified expenses. The Daily Beast was able to obtain that credit card data through a public records request.
The Daily Beast has compared Greenberg’s credit card statements and Venmo transactions to Gaetz’s expenses and travel records—compiled through campaign finance reports, Instagram posts, and Venmo—and found that, in some key places, the two timelines and circles of contact overlap.
“Gaetz has not been charged with a crime, and Gaetz’s congressional office declined to comment directly for this story,” the news outlet reported; however, “a representative from an outside public relations firm, the Logan Circle Group, responded with this statement from Gaetz: ‘The rumors, gossip and self-serving misstatements of others will be addressed in due course by my legal team.'”
The Daily Beast reports that Greenberg is in plea talks with prosecutors.
Greenberg’s defense attorney, Fritz Scheller, also did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But during a press conference after a hearing for the case, Scheller offered that the Florida congressman would probably not welcome the news that Greenberg was taking a plea deal.
“I’m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” Scheller said.
Image credit: Screengrab / WKMG News 6 ClickOrlando / YouTube ; Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Flickr (cropped)