ORLANDO, Fla. — Federal investigators are probing a trip to the Bahamas that U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz allegedly took with former Orlando International Airport board appointee Jason Pirozzolo as part of a probe into potential sex trafficking violations, CBS News reported Wednesday evening.
Citing “multiple” unnamed sources, CBS reported that investigators are probing a Bahamian trip Gaetz, a Republican from the Florida Panhandle, took with Pirozzolo, an Orlando hand doctor and medical marijuana investor who allegedly paid for travel expenses, accommodations and female escorts.
“Investigators are trying to determine if the escorts were illegally trafficked across state or international lines for the purpose of sex with the congressman,” CBS News reported.
CBS News said Pirozzolo did not respond to repeated attempts to contact him, nor did he immediately respond to an email from the Orlando Sentinel or attempts to reach him by phone. The U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment to CBS.
Gaetz, one of the most prominent figures in Florida politics, has been at the center of a national firestorm since reports last week that he is under investigation over allegations that he had sex with a 17-year-old girl and that he and former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg recruited women online and paid them for sex.
CBS said a spokesman for Gaetz provided a statement that said: “Rep. Gaetz has never paid for sex, nor has he had sex with an underage girl. What began with blaring headlines about ‘sex trafficking’ has now turned into a general fishing exercise about vacations and consensual relationships with adults. Yesterday, we even learned of some nonsense ‘pardon’ story that turned out to be false, and today it’s just more euphemism. It’s interesting to watch the Washington wheels grinding so hard every time one of their falsehoods gets knocked down.”
After Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was elected in November 2018, Gaetz recommended Pirozzolo for an appointment as the state’s surgeon general.
In 2019, responding to Orlando Sentinel questions about Pirozzolo, Gaetz said, “Dr. Pirozzolo served on the health care transition team. I asked him to make transition recommendations for the Department of Health and to interview for the position of surgeon general, which he did.”
Pirozzolo didn’t get that appointment, which Pirozzolo said at the time was due to the potential for conflicts of interest.
“Luckily, the DeSantis team made the decision easy for me and due to the fact that I was heavily involved with the medical marijuana industry and had multiple businesses in medical marijuana — and the SG (surgeon general) and DOH (department of health) run the medical marijuana industry here in Florida, that even if I divested entirely that would be an insurmountable conflict of interest,” Pirozzolo told the Sentinel in an email in 2019.
Gaetz then recommended Pirozzolo for an appointment to the governing board of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, which runs Orlando International Airport — and DeSantis obliged.
Once on the board, Gaetz, Pirozzolo and another DeSantis appointee that Gaetz recommended were part of an attempt to oust the airport’s longtime general counsel and replace him with new attorneys who would have been given unadvertised, no-bid contracts.©2021 Orlando Sentinel. Visit at orlandosentinel.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.