How the Gaetz probe grew from intercourse trafficking to medical pot

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FILE - In this Oct. 16, 2002, file photo, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., addresses the crowd during a President Donald Trump campaign rally at the Ocala International Airport in Ocala, Fla. Before Gaetz rose to national prominence as an ardent backer of Trump, he carved out an unusual reputation in Florida: a Republican lawmaker who wanted to liberalize marijuana laws. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)


When Rep. Matt Gaetz vacationed within the Bahamas in 2018, he was joined by a physician who donated to his marketing campaign and a former colleague within the Florida Legislature.

The Republican congressman, Dr. Jason Pirozzolo and Halsey Beshears have been united of their enjoyment of politics, fancy journey and the corporate of gorgeous girls. Additionally they had one other mutual curiosity: Florida’s $1.2 billion medical marijuana business.

The Bahamas journey is a central component of a federal investigation surrounding Gaetz that has all of a sudden endangered his political profession. What started as an inquiry into intercourse trafficking and whether or not Gaetz paid girls and an underage lady in trade for intercourse has grown into a bigger evaluate of public corruption, based on individuals aware of the investigation.

Investigators are whether or not Gaetz and his associates tried to safe authorities jobs for a few of the girls, the individuals stated. They’re additionally scrutinizing Gaetz’s connections to the medical marijuana sector, together with whether or not Pirozzolo and others sought to affect laws Gaetz sponsored. The investigation consists of laws from 2018, when Gaetz was in Congress, and earlier work within the Legislature, based on one of many individuals.

FILE - In this Oct. 16, 2002, file photo, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., addresses the crowd during a President Donald Trump campaign rally at the Ocala International Airport in Ocala, Fla. Before Gaetz rose to national prominence as an ardent backer of Trump, he carved out an unusual reputation in Florida: a Republican lawmaker who wanted to liberalize marijuana laws. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

FILE – On this Oct. 16, 2002, file photograph, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., addresses the group throughout a President Donald Trump marketing campaign rally on the Ocala Worldwide Airport in Ocala, Fla. Earlier than Gaetz rose to nationwide prominence as an ardent backer of Trump, he carved out an uncommon popularity in Florida: a Republican lawmaker who needed to liberalize marijuana legal guidelines. (AP Photograph/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

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Strain on the congressman might construct within the coming weeks as Joel Greenberg, a Gaetz affiliate who has been accused of trafficking a minor for intercourse, faces a Might 15 deadline to strike a plea deal with prosecutors. If he does, Greenberg could also be pressed to cooperate with federal investigators and ship damaging info towards Gaetz.

Not one of the individuals on the journey to the Bahamas has been charged with a criminal offense. Gaetz has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and has retained high-powered attorneys. The congressman and his consultant didn’t reply to a message looking for remark for this story.

Beshears and a lawyer for Pirozzolo declined to remark for this story.

The Related Press spoke with greater than 10 individuals aware of the dynamic amongst Gaetz, Pirozzolo and Beshears. Three of the individuals had information of the investigation. All of them spoke on situation of anonymity as a result of they weren’t allowed to publicly focus on the continuing investigation.

Gaetz’s curiosity in medical marijuana dates again practically a decade, when he was a member of the Florida Home of Representatives. Nicely earlier than he would achieve nationwide consideration for his steadfast help of Donald Trump, Gaetz would carve out an uncommon popularity in Tallahassee as a Republican who needed to liberalize marijuana legal guidelines.

In February 2014, Gaetz co-sponsored the primary state effort to permit marijuana for medical use. His proposal permitting using a nonhallucinogenic marijuana extract was restricted to sufferers with most cancers or a extreme type of epilepsy and slowly earned the help of his father, Don Gaetz, who was then serving as president of the Florida Senate and stated he was “being pummeled” by his son about supporting it.

Gaetz forged his proposal as a pared-down various to a statewide poll measure that will have broadly legalized medical marijuana. Gaetz’s legislation was authorised with broad bipartisan help and signed into legislation by Republican Gov. Rick Scott in June 2014, whereas the statewide measure narrowly failed on the poll field that November.

The day Gaetz’s measure was up for a last debate and vote within the Florida Home, each Pirozzolo and Beshears have been on the ground.

FILE - In this May 1, 2014, file photo, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, answers questions about the medical marijuana bill during session in Tallahassee, Fla. Before Gaetz rose to national prominence as an ardent backer of Donald Trump, he carved out an unusual reputation in Florida: a Republican lawmaker who wanted to liberalize marijuana laws. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon, File)

FILE – On this Might 1, 2014, file photograph, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Seashore, solutions questions in regards to the medical marijuana invoice throughout session in Tallahassee, Fla. Earlier than Gaetz rose to nationwide prominence as an ardent backer of Donald Trump, he carved out an uncommon popularity in Florida: a Republican lawmaker who needed to liberalize marijuana legal guidelines. (AP Photograph/Steve Cannon, File)

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Beshears was a fellow Republican member of the Legislature who joined Gaetz to help the laws. Pirozzolo, an Orlando hand physician and pilot, was there serving because the doctor of the day for the lawmakers — a task he would continuously tackle by flying his personal aircraft to Tallahassee.

As soon as the laws handed, it created profitable new alternatives for Beshears’ household and Pirozzolo.

The long-standing nursery owned by Beshears’ household was awarded certainly one of 5 extremely coveted licenses to domesticate and dispense medical marijuana.

The laws was written to specify — and limit — who might win such a license. An modification added by one other lawmaker within the state Home restricted the pool of candidates to nurseries that had been in steady enterprise for 30 years and had a list of 400,000 or extra vegetation.

The Beshears household nursery, becoming a member of with two different growers, met that customary.

The Tampa Bay Instances reported in 2014 that Beshears had did not file a battle of curiosity report when he voted on the invoice, and the lawmaker who sponsored the modification needed to “err on the facet of limiting who might qualify now” when embarking on such a brand new business. Extra licenses have since been awarded, however the business continues to be tightly managed.

One other modification added to the 2014 laws the day Pirozzolo watched within the state Home required dispensary candidates to make use of a physician as a medical director.

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Eight days later, Pirozzolo began a consulting agency connecting marijuana companies with medical administrators, the Orlando Sentinel reported. He later co-founded a bunch known as the American Medical Marijuana Physicians Affiliation, which advocates for docs who advocate medical hashish.

Gaetz has spoken at the very least twice on the affiliation’s annual conferences, together with an look with longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone, based on the group’s social media posts and the recollections of a member.

With suggestions from Gaetz and Beshears in 2018, Pirozzolo was appointed by the present governor, Republican Ron DeSantis, to serve on a board that runs Orlando Worldwide Airport. In 2019, he stood subsequent to DeSantis on an airport tarmac and greeted Trump as he arrived in Orlando to kick off his reelection marketing campaign, based on video posted on-line by a Sentinel reporter.

Two years after Gaetz’s first medical marijuana legislation, he sponsored one other measure within the Legislature to develop on it, permitting near-death sufferers to make use of nonsmokable marijuana of all strengths and doses.

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The day it got here up for a vote within the state Home, Beshears voted for it, and Pirozzolo witnessed it, once more serving because the physician of the day.

By the point Gaetz was in Congress in 2018, he launched laws that will improve the variety of entities that will conduct hashish analysis. The laws included provisions much like what Pirozzolo’s group was pushing to additionally develop analysis.

Almost 5 months later, the boys would meet within the Bahamas.



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