Two top prosecutors in the Justice Department were added several months ago to the ongoing federal probe examining sex trafficking allegations against Rep. Matt Gaetz, two sources familiar with the matter confirmed to ABC News.
The Washington-based prosecutors, one with expertise in child exploitation crimes and the other a top official in the DOJ's Public Integrity Section, have been on the Florida-based case since at least July. In recent months, they joined a team in Florida that's been looking into whether Gaetz violated federal law by providing goods or payments to a 17-year-old girl in exchange for sex, sources confirmed to ABC News. The news of the new prosecutors was first reported by The New York Times.
Gaetz has not been charged with a crime and has denied any wrongdoing. In a statement to ABC News on Thursday, a spokesperson for Gaetz said, "Congressman Gaetz is innocent. The former DOJ official who tried to extort him is guilty. No number of political operative prosecutors at a politically weaponized DOJ will change this."
The news comes just days after a federal judge in Central Florida granted a request from attorneys representing former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg, Gaetz's one-time self-described "wingman," to delay Greenberg's sentencing while he continues to provide prosecutors with information about his activities in connection with the ongoing federal probe.
Greenberg in May pleaded guilty to multiple federal crimes, including sex trafficking of a minor and introducing her to other "adult men" who also had sex with her when she was underage, and agreed to provide "substantial assistance" to prosecutors as part of their ongoing investigation.
"This is obviously not a normal situation," U.S. attorney Roger Handberg told the judge earlier this week in requesting a delay in Greenberg's scenting. "Mr. Greenberg is a prolific criminal."
"Mr. Greenberg was not alone," Handberg added. "This is an unusual situation with a number of lines of investigation we are pursuing."
ABC News previously reported that Gaetz's former associate had been steadily providing information and handing over troves of potential evidence in the sprawling probe, including years of Venmo and Cash App transactions and thousands of photos and videos, as well as access to personal social media accounts, sources said.
Private messages first reported by ABC News potentially shed light on how Greenberg allegedly met women online who were paid for sex, and allegedly introduced them to the Florida congressman and other associates. The messages, first reported by ABC News in August, appear to show Greenberg texting with a woman he met online in September 2018 and discussing payment options. Greenberg also appears to ask the woman, who was of legal age, if she would take drugs; he then sets up a get-together with himself, Gaetz, the woman, and one of her friends, the messages appear to show.
Amid the ongoing investigation, Gaetz has remained active in Congress and has forcibly pushed back against the DOJ and the media. During Thursday's House Judiciary hearing, Gaetz questioned Attorney General Merrick Garland on whether there are prohibitions against DOJ officials who have been "partisan committee staff" members working on criminal investigations. Todd Gee, one of the two new prosecutors added to the Gaetz investigation, previously worked as a House Homeland Committee staffer for Democrats during the Bush Administration.
Greenberg's sentencing is now scheduled for March 2022, a date the judge said would be a "deadline we have to meet."
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