Rep.Matt Gates unlikely to be charged in sex trafficking probe

Career prosecutors advise against accusing the Rep. Matt Gates (R-Fla.) told higher Justice Department officials in a long-running sex-trafficking investigation that a conviction was unlikely, in part because of questions about the credibility of two central witnesses, according to people familiar with the matter.

Senior department officials have yet to make a final decision on whether to bring charges against Gates, the people familiar with the matter told the Washington Post on condition of anonymity, but such advice is rarely rejected. They added that it was always possible that additional evidence would emerge that could change the prosecutor’s understanding of the case.

Still, federal authorities are unlikely to charge Gaetz with a crime in an investigation to begin in late 2020 that focuses on his alleged links to a 17-year-old girl Years ago. Gates, 40, has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, saying he never paid for sex. He also said the only time he had sex with a 17-year-old was when he was 17.

Gaetz’s attorney, Isabelle Kirshner, declined to comment. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

Gaetz is seeking a pardon tied to the Justice Department.People familiar with sex trafficking investigations say

Investigators set out to determine if the congressman violated federal sex trafficking laws He was dealing with a 17-year-old at the time, according to people familiar with the matter. Earlier this year, a federal grand jury in Orlando heard testimony from Gates colleagues, including an ex-girlfriend.

Investigators are particularly interested in Gates’ alleged ex-girlfriend among several women who traveled to the Bahamas in 2018. The 17-year-old girl involved in the investigation was also on the trip, although she was 18 or older at the time, the people said. She has been a central witness in the investigation, but people familiar with the matter said she was one of two people whose testimony was questionable, with senior prosecutors arguing that the jury could not pass it.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) first dabbled in politics a decade ago. It didn’t take long for him to emerge within the Republican Party. (Video: Drea Cornejo/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

The other is Gates’ former friend Joel Greenberg, a former tax collector in Seminole County, Florida. He pleaded guilty last year to sex trafficking of minors and a slew of other crimes as part of a cooperation agreement with authorities.

Greenberg was first charged in 2020 with fabricated allegations and evidence to discredit a political opponent, but prosecutors continued to investigate and added additional charges to his case. He eventually agreed to plead guilty to six criminal charges, including sex trafficking of a child, aggravated identity theft and wire fraud.

Sex trafficking probe involving Matt Gates, explained

In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to dismiss Greenberg’s 27 other counts and recommended the use of a time limit within federal sentencing guidelines that is often well below the legal maximum sentence. They also agreed to recommend other possible sentencing breaks.

Under Greenberg’s plea deal, prosecutors could ask the judge to deviate from the minimum required sentence if Greenberg provided “substantial assistance” in establishing other cases. His sentencing is scheduled for later this year.

It was while investigating Greenberg’s conduct that investigators found evidence that could suggest Gates was involved in sex trafficking, the people said. Prosecutors have been exploring whether Greenberg paid women to have sex with Gates and whether the two shared a sexual partner, including the 17-year-old girl in Greenberg’s case, these people said.

How about the Department of Justice. Come investigate the House of Representatives.Matt Gates

Gates represents a largely conservative area of ​​the Florida Panhandle and is known as a sharp defender of former President Donald Trump. The investigation into him began during the Trump administration and with the approval of then-Attorney General William P. Barr.

Greenberg has been giving investigators information about Gates since last year, according to people familiar with the matter.

Greenberg’s credibility would be a major challenge to any prosecution of Gates, in part because one of the crimes Greenberg pleaded guilty to was fabricating charges against a schoolteacher who ran against him as a tax collector. Greenberg had sent letters to schools falsely claiming that the teacher had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a student — akin to the Gates case.

Greenberg also pleaded guilty to a slew of other crimes, including stealing from the tax office and defrauding a government loan program that provides relief to businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

David Bell, an attorney for wrongly accused teacher Greenberg, said last year that “no one will believe anything Joel Greenberg says himself.”

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Gates’ case took a particularly bizarre turn when authorities accused a Florida business executive of trying to blackmail the congressman’s wealthy father, securing the president’s pardon for the young Gates amid an ongoing sex trafficking investigation. part of the plan.

Corporate executive Stephen M. Alford finally pleaded guilty to wire fraud in 2021. Authorities said he contacted Gates’ father, Don Gates, and said he could “guarantee” his son’s pardon in the sex-trafficking case as part of a complex $25 million plan that also involved finding a long-term The missing former FBI agent. Instead of paying him, Don Gates went to the FBI and secretly recorded the conversation.

Last week, The Washington Post reported that Gates told former White House aide John McEntire that he was seeking a pre-emptive pardon from Trump shortly before he left office.

McEntire, who was before a House select committee investigating the June 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, said Gates told him that while he had done nothing wrong, “they were trying to make his life easier,” according to people familiar with the matter. Going to hell, and you know, it would be great if the president could pardon him.”

Gates said he had asked White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows for a pardon, McEntiy testified, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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