House panel obtains texts allegedly showing Gaetz setting up 2017 Florida Keys trip with woman his associate paid for sex: Sources

(WASHINGTON) — Congressional House Ethics investigators have obtained text messages allegedly showing that a few months after first joining Congress, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz asked a young woman, who at the time had received payments for sex from Gaetz’s then-close friend Joel Greenberg, to join him and others on a three-day trip to the Florida Keys in May 2017, multiple sources tell ABC News.

In the alleged text messages described exclusively to ABC News, the then-freshman congressman appeared to message a woman, who ABC News is not identifying, asking if she would fly on a private plane to the Florida Keys for a trip with Gaetz, three other women, and one other man.

“Hey — any interest in flying on a private plane to the keys May 19-21?” Gaetz allegedly wrote to the woman, who was older than 21 at the time, according to multiple sources familiar with the messages.

Gaetz then allegedly said that the trip would feature “2 guys, 4 girls. A very high-quality adventurous group,” according to the messages, which have previously not been reported on.

“Yeah I’m in,” replied the woman, according to the texts.

Gaetz allegedly replied: “Fantastic. As is true with all time you spend w me, it’ll be fun and chill […] You have a passport?”

Sources familiar with the events tell ABC News the woman ultimately declined the 2017 trip.

The messages, if accurate, mark the first known example of alleged direct private communication between the Florida congressman and a woman who his one-time close associate Joel Greenberg told investigators he had been paying to have sex with other men, according to documents and interviews with multiple sources.

It’s unknown if Gaetz knew that Greenberg had allegedly been paying the woman in such a manner.

A spokesperson for Gaetz told ABC News, “Rep. Gaetz has no knowledge of these activities by Mr. Greenberg and was not involved in them. Rep. Gaetz has never paid for sex. Rep. Gaetz does not know anything about the woman you’re referencing, though he takes thousands of selfies each year.”

Members of the House Ethics Committee declined to comment to ABC News.

A photo of Gaetz and the woman has also been turned over to the committee, according to sources briefed on the matter. According to the sources, the photo, which is dated May 19, 2017, shows the woman smiling in a selfie next to Gaetz, who is wearing a shirt that reads, “If you think research is expensive, try disease,” a quote from health activist Mary W. Lasker.

According to bank and Venmo records reviewed by ABC News, the woman had previously received multiple payments from Greenberg, which multiple sources tell ABC News were for the woman to have sex at parties with Greenberg’s friends.

Greenberg, a former Seminole County tax collector, reached a deal with federal investigators in May 2021 in which he pleaded guilty to multiple federal crimes, including sex trafficking of a minor and introducing her to other “adult men” who also had sex with her when she was underage.

He was a top witness in the Justice Department’s yearslong investigation into allegations that Gaetz had engaged in sex trafficking the same minor who was the victim in the sex trafficking case to which Greenberg pleaded guilty. The probe concluded with the DOJ’s decision not to bring charges against Gaetz.

The House Ethics Committee opened its own probe into Gaetz in April 2021 but paused its investigation while the Justice Department completed its probe. The Ethics Committee then reopened its probe this past summer.

Gaetz has long denied all wrongdoing. The Florida congressman has blasted the Ethics Committee, saying its efforts are part of a plan by former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to retaliate against Gaetz for helping remove McCarthy from his post late last year.

House investigators have recently ramped up their probe of Gaetz, which ABC News previously reported is looking into allegations that he paid for sex, as well as allegations about drug use and potential lobbying violations, according to sources familiar with the committee’s work. The DOJ examined related allegations in their yearslong probe before deciding not to bring charges.

Since the start of 2024, the Ethics Committee has contacted numerous witnesses, including Greenberg and the congressman’s ex-girlfriend.

Federal investigators previously sought answers about a separate trip in 2018 that Gaetz allegedly took to the Bahamas with women who Greenberg said he had been paying for sex, and were looking to determine if Gaetz was provided travel and entertainment in exchange for political favors, according to people familiar with the investigation. House investigators have conducted at least one interview with a witness who was allegedly part of that trip, sources tell ABC News.

It’s unclear if the text messages regarding the planned 2017 Florida Keys trip reported by ABC News were also scrutinized by federal investigators.

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