Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican known for his fierce allegiance to former president Donald Trump, had been under Justice Department investigation for months for a possible sex crime when two men approached his father with a proposal, people familiar with the matter said.
The men had learned of the investigation, they wrote to Don Gaetz, and wanted to offer an opportunity to help his son, the people said. He could give a huge sum of money to fund their effort to locate Robert A. Levinson — the longest held American hostage in Iran whose family has said they were told he is dead. If the operation was a success, he would win favor with the U.S. government and help alleviate Matt Gaetz’s legal woes.
But Don Gaetz, a prominent Florida Republican who once led the state Senate, viewed the communication suspiciously, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe a continuing and politically sensitive probe. The investigation into Matt Gaetz’s alleged crime — he is suspected of having sex with a 17-year-old girl, as well as funding her travel — was not public knowledge. Fearing his family was being extorted, Don Gaetz contacted the FBI.