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Gaetz’s Ex-Girlfriend Testifies Earlier than Federal Grand Jury

WASHINGTON — A former girlfriend of Consultant Matt Gaetz testified on Wednesday earlier than a federal grand jury in Orlando scrutinizing whether or not he broke intercourse trafficking legal guidelines, in response to two folks briefed on the case.

The event means that the Justice Division could have secured a key witness in its inquiry, which is in search of to find out whether or not Mr. Gaetz offered items or funds to a 17-year-old woman in trade for intercourse. Mr. Gaetz, a Republican, has represented a district in western Florida since 2017.

The witness, who testified in Federal District Court docket, dated Mr. Gaetz for about two years, starting in 2017, and he or she remained involved with him after their relationship ended, in response to an individual who knew the couple on the time.

NBC News and CNN earlier reported that Mr. Gaetz’s former girlfriend was testifying earlier than a federal grand jury.

She met Mr. Gaetz by means of one among his former confidants, Joel Greenberg, who pleaded guilty last year to a sequence of prices — together with intercourse trafficking a minor — and is now cooperating within the investigation, the individual stated.

Mr. Gaetz is accused of getting had intercourse with the identical minor, a 17-year-old, in the course of the span of his relationship with the previous girlfriend. Mr. Greenberg has advised others that he and Mr. Gaetz had intercourse with the woman and that she had claimed to be over 18, however they later realized her age.

Investigators have requested Mr. Gaetz’s former girlfriend about any sexual relationship that the minor could have had with Mr. Greenberg and Mr. Gaetz, and whether or not the woman acquired cash or materials items like meals, medication and resort rooms in trade.

Representatives for Mr. Gaetz didn’t instantly reply to requests for remark. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing within the case, together with having intercourse with a minor and paying for intercourse.

A number of folks have advised investigators that Mr. Gaetz’s former girlfriend is one among a number of ladies who met Mr. Greenberg by means of the web site SeekingArrangement, which describes itself as a spot the place rich folks discover enticing companions and deal with them to presents and money.

Mr. Greenberg then launched these ladies to Mr. Gaetz, who usually had sexual relationships with them, the witnesses have stated.

Investigators started in search of proof and testimony from Mr. Gaetz’s former girlfriend in late 2020, and the F.B.I. seized her telephone on the finish of that 12 months, in response to two folks acquainted with the investigation.

In addition they have requested her whether or not Mr. Gaetz sought to dissuade potential witnesses from cooperating with the investigation, in response to folks acquainted with the inquiry.

One of many difficulties of prosecuting Mr. Gaetz is the credibility of lots of the key witnesses.

Mr. Greenberg, who may face a decade in jail, has agreed to cooperate with the federal government within the hopes of receiving a lighter sentence.

However protection attorneys may search to undermine Mr. Greenberg by citing his lengthy historical past of fraud and corruption to lift doubts about his reliability.

After repeated delays, Mr. Greenberg is now scheduled to be sentenced in March. In an indication of the complexity of the case, two prime prosecutors from the Justice Division in Washington joined the investigation last year — one with experience in little one exploitation and the opposite a prime official within the public corruption unit.

Katie Benner reported from Washington, and Michael S. Schmidt from New York.

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