ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — When Rep. Matt Gaetz vacationed in the Bahamas in 2018, he was joined by a doctor who donated to his campaign and a former colleague in the Florida state legislature.
The Republican congressman, Dr. Jason Pirozzolo and Halsey Beshears were united in their enjoyment of politics, fancy travel and the company of beautiful women. They also had another mutual interest: Florida’s $1.2 billion medical marijuana industry.
The Bahamas trip is a central element of a federal investigation surrounding Gaetz that has suddenly endangered his political career. What began as a probe into sex trafficking and whether Gaetz paid women and an underage girl in exchange for sex has grown into a larger review of public corruption, according to people familiar with the investigation.
Investigators are looking at whether Gaetz and his associates tried to secure government jobs for some of the women, the people said. They are also scrutinizing Gaetz’s connections to the medical marijuana sector, including whether Pirozzolo and others sought to influence legislation Gaetz sponsored. The probe includes legislation from 2018, when Gaetz was in Congress, and earlier work in the state legislature, according to one of the people.
Pressure on the congressman could build in the coming weeks as Joel Greenberg, a Gaetz associate who has been accused of trafficking a minor for sex, faces a May 15 deadline to strike a plea deal with prosecutors. If he does, Greenberg may be pressed to cooperate with federal investigators and deliver damaging information against Gaetz.
None of the people on the trip to the Bahamas has been charged with a crime. Gaetz has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and has retained high-powered lawyers. The congressman and his representative did not respond to a message seeking comment for this story.
Beshears and a lawyer for Pirozzolo declined to comment …read more