WASHINGTON — A Justice Department investigation into Representative Matt Gaetz and an indicted Florida politician is focusing on their involvement with multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments, according to people close to the investigation and text messages and payment receipts reviewed by The New York Times.
Investigators believe Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector in Seminole County, Fla., who was indicted last year on a federal sex trafficking charge and other crimes, initially met the women through websites that connect people who go on dates in exchange for gifts, fine dining, travel and allowances, according to three people with knowledge of the encounters. Mr. Greenberg introduced the women to Mr. Gaetz, who also had sex with them, the people said.
One of the women who had sex with both men also agreed to have sex with an unidentified associate of theirs in Florida Republican politics, according to a person familiar with the arrangement. Mr. Greenberg had initially contacted her online and introduced her to Mr. Gaetz, the person said.
Mr. Gaetz denied ever paying a woman for sex.
The Justice Department inquiry is also examining whether Mr. Gaetz had sex with a 17-year-old girl and whether she received anything of material value, according to four people familiar with the investigation. The sex trafficking count against Mr. Greenberg involved the same girl, according to two people briefed on the investigation.
was indicted in August on the sex trafficking charge.
One of the sites the men met women through was called Seeking Arrangement, which describes itself as a place where wealthy people find attractive companions and pamper them “with fine dinners, exotic trips and allowances.” The site’s founder has said it has 20 million members worldwide. The F.B.I. mentioned the website in a conversation with at least one potential witness, according to a person familiar with the conversation.
Mr. Greenberg was indicted this week on additional charges, accusing him of submitting false claims to receive pandemic relief aid from the government and trying to bribe a government official. The authorities said Mr. Greenberg undertook those efforts after he was initially indicted last summer.
Mr. Greenberg, who has pleaded not guilty to the earlier charges, is scheduled to go on trial in June. He was sent to jail in March for violating the terms of his bail.
Mr. Gaetz said this week that his lawyers had been in touch with the Justice Department and that he was the subject, not the target, of an investigation. Subjects of investigations are often witnesses or people who might have information that could help the government pursue its targets. But it is common for that designation to shift over the course of an investigation.
“I only know that it has to do with women,” Mr. Gaetz said. “I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward.”
notified the family of Mr. Levinson, a former F.B.I. agent, that he had died while in captivity in Iran, where he disappeared in 2007 while on an unauthorized mission for the C.I.A.
But some people involved with the Levinson case continued to believe that he might still be alive, including Mr. Kent.