Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, a staunch Trump supporter, is under probe over allegations of having sex with a minor. Gaetz is accused of being in a physical relationship with a 17-year-old girl while paying for her travel and stay. Refuting these claims, Gaetz said that he and his family are facing extortion threat from a former official of the Justice Department.
Before the news of investigation broke, Gaetz had told that he wanted to leave Congress and start a new gig as on-air personality of Newsmax television station. But soon after the news of probe started making rounds, he spoke to Axios and said that he had provided for women he had dated when he was single. "You know, I've paid for flights, for hotel rooms. I've been, you know, generous as a partner. I think someone is trying to make that look criminal when it is not," he said.
Speaking to The New York Times he said that he had not committed any improper acts with an underage girl. Gaets went on to tweet: "Over the past several weeks my family and I have been victims of an organized criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name."
The Extortion Threat Allegation
According to Daily Beast Gaetz, the man who had demanded money was ex-Air Force intelligence officer Bob Kent. The report claims that he had demanded money from Matt Gaetz's father Don Gaetz, who is a wealthy Florida businessman. Kent is said to have told Don that he could make his son's "future legal and political problems go away" if he backed a rescue plan worth $25 million to rescue and bring back former FBI agent Robert Levinson from Iran.
Reports claim that Kent has been obsessed with rescuing Levinson for years. U.S. intelligence had concluded years ago that FBI organized crime expert Levinson had died in custody of Islamic militants. Levinson had disappeared in March 2007 during a covert CIA mission on Iran's Kish Island. Levinson's family had accepted the findings of U.S. intelligence in 2020.
But Kent started a separate search about Levinson in 2018 and claimed that he was alive. He had worked as an Air Force special tactics intelligence officer from 2000 to 2007. He started gathering information on Levinson's whereabouts and medical condition. His LinkedIn page states that he has been an intelligence contractor with the U.S. government in Afghanistan.
Levinson Rescue Plan
In 2018, he had raised $250,000 allegedly from ex-CIA circles for his plan to rescue Levinson. But the plan fell out as the federal government short-circuited the caper over sanctions issues related to Iran. Three years later, Kent is said to have approached Gaetz's father. Kent had allegedly told Don Gaetz that he would give his son "credit for the operation" and help arrange "a presidential pardon for unnamed legal issues" if he gets $25 million for the operation.
Reports claim that Don Gaetz met Kent on March 17 and received three-page document outlining the "Project Homecoming" rescue plan. Kent had allegedly asked senior Gaetz to deposit the amount in the account of Beggs & Lane law firm, led by David L. McGee, who had represented the Levinson family.
Matt Gaetz even named McGee as part of the alleged extortion plot, during an interview with a TV. McGee spoke to The Daily Beast and said: "Any claims that he or his law firm were involved in extortion are completely, totally false. This is a blatant attempt to distract from the fact that Matt Gaetz is apparently about to be indicted for sex trafficking underage girls," said McGee.
Who is Matt Gaetz?
Matt Gaetz, 38, has represented Florida's 1st Congressional District since 2017. Since 2010 he has been serving in the Florida House of Representatives. He has a strong political backing as his father Don had served in the Florida state Legislature as Senate president. He has also co-founded the hospice care company VITAS Healthcare.
Matt Gaetz currently lives in Fort Walton Beach, near Destin. A popular figure in social media with his firebrand speeches and viral hit videos, he has currently expressed his willingness to leave the Congress and join a TV network.
Reports state that he got engaged to 26-year-old Ginger Luckey in December 2020. Luckey is the sister of Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus VR.