A trip Matt Gaetz allegedly took to the Bahamas with a marijuana entrepreneur over two years ago is reportedly being scrutinized by federal officials investigating sex trafficking allegations against the Florida congressman.
CBS News reported the development on Wednesday, citing multiple sources with knowledge of the Justice Department’s investigation of Gaetz.
The sources said Gaetz took the trip to the Bahamas with Dr Jason Pirozzolo, a hand surgeon and co-founder of The American Medical Marijuana Physicians Association (AMMPA), in late 2018 or early 2019.
Pirozzolo footed the bill for the travel expenses and accommodations – as well as female escorts, the sources said.
Investigators are allegedly looking into whether the escorts were illegally trafficked across state or international lines for the purpose of having sex with Gaetz.
A trip Matt Gaetz (left) allegedly took to the Bahamas with a marijuana entrepreneur Jason Pirozzolo (right) over two years ago is reportedly being scrutinized by federal officials investigating sex trafficking allegations against the Florida 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, told CBS.
‘It doesn’t matter that [Gaetz] personally paid them as long as he knows someone is doing that.’
Investigators are also working to determine whether Gaetz accepted the escorts in exchange for political access or legislative favors, the sources said.
‘If there’s evidence of a quid pro quo that the congressman was provided with benefits in return for him sponsoring some legislation that’s of interest to the donor, that that’s a federal crime,’ Devlin-Brown said.
Pirozzolo spoke about his ties to Gaetz in a July 2018 Ganjapreneur podcast, where he said he was working with the congressman to draw up federal legislation to bolster medical research of cannabis.
‘Congressman Matt Gaetz is in the process of working on legislation up in Washington, DC, that will help facilitate research on the nationwide level. And we should see a lot of good benefit from them,’ Pirozzolo said.
The podcast came three months after Gaetz introduced the Medical Cannabis Research Act in Congress. He introduced the bill again in January 2019, but both times it was not brought to a vote.
Gaetz was a speaker at two conferences hosted by AMMPA, the organization Pirozzolo founded and serves as chairman of the board.
The first conference Gaetz spoke at in October 2017 was followed immediately by a fundraiser for his congressional campaign, according to the Central Florida Post. The second conference was in May 2018.
FEC records show that Pirozzolo made two separate $1,000 donations to Gaetz’ campaign in 2016 and 2017.
Gaetz is seen speaking at an American Medical Marijuana Physicians Association conference in May 2018. Pirozzolo is a co-founder and chairman of the association
Reports of the investigators’ interest in the Bahamas trip came as Gaetz was already facing a string of lurid allegations, including claims he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl, was involved in a Harry Potter-themed sex game, paid for sex using Apple Pay and showed Congressional colleagues on the House floor photos of naked women.
The Florida Republican has denied all allegations and gone on the offense, rapidly responding to the hits and appearing on conservative news networks to claim he’s the victim of a conspiracy.
He claims he was targeted in an extortion plot involving former Justice Department official David McGee, who was trying to extort $25million from his family to help rescue American hostage Robert Levinson from Iran. McGee denied Gaetz’s charge.
As with the previous allegations, Gaetz’ office denied the claims in the CBS report about the Bahamas trip.
‘Rep. Gaetz has never paid for sex, nor has he had sex with an underage girl,’ a spokesperson for the congressman said.
‘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.’