According to two women who attended the house parties in the gated community in suburban Orlando and talked to CNN recently, the first thing some of the women were asked to do when they arrived was put their cellphones away. The men inside, who included Rep. Matt Gaetz and a who’s who of local Republican officials, didn’t want the night’s activities registered.
The partygoers mingled and traded drugs like cocaine and ecstasy, some of whom were suited up for a political function they’d just left. Some of them had sex.
One of the women said Gaetz, the brash Republican, liked to talk politics. He acted as a “frat type of party boy,” she said, taking pills she thought were recreational drugs on occasion. Two women who attended some of the parties over the past few years outlined the parties to CNN in detail, which had not previously been published. Both agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity.
The Justice Department is likely to be interested in Gaetz’s actions and that of the other high-powered men at the events, as well as a trend of digital payments that followed, as part of its investigation into Gaetz, which involves charges of human trafficking and prostitution.
According to people familiar with the case, federal investigators are looking into whether Gaetz had a relationship with a woman that started when she was 17 years old. Investigators have also looked into claims from witnesses and other facts that Gaetz may have dealt with the young women with cash and drugs.
Money will change hands after any of the parties. Gaetz and his associate Joel Greenberg, a former county tax commissioner arrested last year on several federal charges, allegedly used digital payment apps to transfer hundreds of dollars to at least one woman who attended the events, according to receipts checked by CNN.
After some of the parties, one of the women said she earned money from Greenberg. She admitted that some of the money was for supplying sex, but she wouldn’t tell with whom she lived. She did mention, however, that she never got money from Gaetz directly.
According to the other woman, some of the parties were more low-key affairs. Some took place in hotel suites after boozy political gatherings.
“No one ever wants to stop partying, stop drinking, once you’ve had a few glasses of champagne in you,” she said.
Gaetz’s spokesperson did not specifically respond to CNN’s request for comment, but he did criticize the use of anonymous sources.
Authorities have met with some of the women associated with the congressman and his close associate, Greenberg, the former tax commissioner in Seminole County, Florida, who is currently facing 33 federal charges, including sex trafficking of a child, according to people familiar with the investigation.
One of the women who talked to CNN said she did so in part because the image of Gaetz as a possible sex trafficker that has emerged in recent days does not match what she saw. Both women said that they never saw anyone under the age of 18 at the events. According to them, neither has spoken with federal investigators.
Gaetz has denied ever paying for sex and has attempted to portray the charges against him as the product of political bias in the justice system and the media over the last two weeks. Investigators, he claims, have twisted his generosity toward women into something criminal.
“Providing for flights and hotel rooms for people that you’re dating who are of legal age is not a crime,” Gaetz said in an interview with Fox News late last month.
Gaetz made digital payments to women, according to The New York Times, and The Daily Beast posted on Venmo transactions between Gaetz and Greenberg, as well as Greenberg and young women, last Thursday.
Since last year, Greenberg has been providing information to investigators, including contacts he and Gaetz had with women who were given cash or gifts in return for sex, a source familiar with the case confirms to CNN.
Greenberg has met with investigators many times, and his cooperation, first revealed by The New York Times, could place more legal pressure on Gaetz as investigators try to figure out whether he violated any sex-trafficking or prostitution laws himself.
Greenberg’s lawyer and a federal prosecutor told a judge last week that Greenberg would likely sign a plea deal in the coming weeks, potentially allowing the Justice Department even more access to a witness with firsthand knowledge of any possible misconduct by Gaetz.