When Rep. Matt Gaetz attended a 2019 GOP fundraiser in Orlando, his date that night was anyone he realized effectively: a paid out escort and beginner Instagram design who led a cocaine-fueled celebration immediately after the party, in accordance to two witnesses.
The Florida congressman’s a single-time wingman, Joel Greenberg, will recognize that escort to investigators as a single of more than 15 younger ladies Gaetz compensated for sex, according to a supply acquainted with the investigation.
But what distinguishes this girl, Megan Zalonka, is that she turned her partnership with Greenberg into a taxpayer-funded no-display occupation that attained her an estimated $7,000 to $17,500, according to a few sources and corresponding govt documents received by The Day-to-day Beast.
On Oct. 26, 2019, Gaetz attended the “Trump Defender Gala” fundraiser as the showcased speaker at the Westgate Lake Vacation resort in Orlando. Two witnesses existing recalled friends reconvening at Gaetz’s lodge space for an just after-occasion, where Zalonka prepared lines of cocaine on the lavatory counter. A person of people witnesses distinctly remembers Zalonka pulling the medicines out of her make-up bag, rolling a monthly bill of money, and becoming a member of Gaetz in snorting the cocaine.
Although The Daily Beast could not validate that Gaetz and Zalonka had sexual intercourse that night, two sources said the pair experienced an ongoing financial marriage in exchange for sex. “She was just 1 of the lots of pieces of arm candy he had,” mentioned one particular supply familiar with the encounters amongst Gaetz and Zalonka.
The congressman—who has declared that he “never paid for sex”—wrote off the keep at the hotel as a marketing campaign expense, with his donors picking up the tab.
The U.S. Secret Company, which initiated the Greenberg investigation about allegations that Greenberg used county assets to mine Bitcoin, would not comment on the ongoing probe. Federal prosecutors with the Middle District of Florida would not say if investigators have questioned Zalonka. Greenberg’s legal professional declined remark, citing attorney-client privilege.
Gaetz’s workplace did not reply to a request for comment. Nonetheless, his hired community relations firm, Logan Circle Group, did challenge this assertion: “Congressman Gaetz will not be commenting on regardless of whether he dated or didn’t date precise women of all ages. The privateness of women of all ages residing personal lives ought to be protected.” Harlan Hill, the president of that company, did not address questions about cocaine, the social gathering, or the fundraiser.
Right after recurring calls and messages to Zalonka about the past 5 months, her attorney advised The Each day Beast on Thursday night that she “is not speaking to any media outlet.” Mark J. O’Brien, a prison defense lawyer, said the allegations were being not “accurate” but would not elaborate more. He did not reply to a record of detailed issues about the fundraiser occasion, Zalonka’s county deal, or her relationships with Greenberg and the congressman.
Federal investigators are exploring Greenberg’s alleged purpose as the congressman’s go-to call for arranging compensated sexual encounters, in accordance to a few sources with immediate understanding of the probe. Greenberg is slated to plead responsible on Monday to 6 felonies and is envisioned to cooperate as a witness in opposition to his former friend.
Zalonka, who is an novice fashion product and the communications director for the American Medical Marijuana Physicians Affiliation, obtained $4,000 on Venmo from Greenberg all through his first calendar year in office environment in 2017—mostly in $500 installments. And Greenberg, who is married, detailed a variety of explanations for why he paid Zalonka. In the memo fields of his Venmo payments, he paid out her $500 for “Stuff,” yet another $500 for “Orher stuff” [sic], and $1,000 for “Pool.” On a one day in November, he paid her $500 for “Food” and yet another $500 for “Appetizers.”
But Zalonka’s interactions with Greenberg in 2017 morphed into a business marriage with the air of legitimacy. In December of that calendar year, she was in near communication with him as she designed her possess enterprise, MZ Strategy Group LLC, in accordance to email messages amongst Greenberg and Zalonka that had been seen by The Each day Beast. The future month, Greenberg awarded her a county deal, agreeing to pay back her $3,500 a thirty day period for “management of electronic content” and “production of social media engagements.”
Zalonka’s agency obtained $3,500 installments in Seminole County taxpayer cash in January and April 2018, according to an investigation of Greenberg’s govt spending obtained by means of a community records request. Those people payments would later be flagged as a “questioned or unaccounted for purchase” by county-contracted auditors with the Florida forensic accounting organization MSL. Even the tax office’s individual chief financial officer, who processed the payments, pointed out in her studies: “do not know what it was for.”
Auditors flagged other $3,500 installments in February, March, and Might of that yr, in the sort of suspicious income developments specifically to Greenberg—but Greenberg by no means specified the intent of all those withdrawals. The prices look to have ceased after that issue.
“Entirely a no-present job… There is no function product or service, no proof work was carried out. It is just unbelievable.”
— Daniel O’Keefe, accountant
4 folks familiar with Zalonka’s arrangement said it was a “no-show” deal. Zalonka never ever worked at the business office, and it was unclear what provider she offered, they said. Accountant Daniel J. O’Keefe, who led the forensic audit of Greenberg’s alleged self-dealing, stated tax collector personnel explained to him the female guiding the corporation was a thriller. O’Keefe extra that he discovered no proof Zalonka ever offered the providers itemized in her agreement with Greenberg.
“I have no strategy what they have been doing. And workforce wouldn’t know what they ended up performing. Completely a no-present career,” O’Keefe claimed. “There’s no perform merchandise, no proof do the job was carried out. It truly is just unbelievable.”
Zalonka also functions prominently in a tranche of Greenberg’s Venmo transactions, which incorporate his payments to extra than 40 females. Those people gals acquired hundreds of bucks at a time for memo goods this kind of as “salad,” “lemons,” and “ass,” according to financial records. The Day-to-day Beast spoke to 12 of people women, who all mentioned the payments had been at least in part due to the fact Greenberg meant to have intercourse with them.
A few young females paid by Greenberg, who spoke to The Daily Beast underneath issue of anonymity, put Zalonka in the space during a 2018 encounter at the Duval Hotel in Tallahassee.
Just one of the women—all of them 19-year-aged college students attending nearby Florida Point out University at the time—said Greenberg and a quantity of “well-linked Republican men” bought them beverages at the hotel bar, being aware of how aged the learners were being, then led them to a area furnished with “a large pile of coke.” The men required to have sexual intercourse with the teenagers and implied that Zalonka, who was in the home, would be a part of in, a single of the females recalled. When the teenagers refused, Greenberg, Zalonka, and another male went into a linked space to have sex, according to one particular of the former learners and screenshots of a dialogue among the three females reviewed by The Everyday Beast.
Zalonka experienced signed her advertising agreement months right before the encounter, and economic records demonstrate that Greenberg compensated for a flight to Tallahassee with Seminole County taxpayer income about that time.
Zalonka’s interactions with Greenberg’s circle extended to Gaetz as effectively. In mid-2018, Zalonka became a spokesperson for the American Healthcare Marijuana Doctors Affiliation (AMMPA), a cannabis legalization group with close ties to Gaetz. The congressman was feted as a visitor of honor at two of its conferences in 2018, and attended the past year’s once-a-year meeting in Oct. The 2017 conference, which Greenberg also attended, featured Republican operative and Trump loyalist Roger Stone, who appeared at a Gaetz fundraiser after the congressman’s keynote speech. That working day, Oct. 5, Greenberg utilized Venmo to send out Zalonka $500 around midday—for “Rent.”
Other AMMPA officials have near ties to Gaetz and Greenberg. In Gaetz’s e book, Firebrand, printed previous September, the congressman singles out govt director Savara Hastings and her boyfriend, AMMPA chairman Jason Pirozzolo, as some of his “best friends.” Gaetz also states he has used New Yrs Eve with the pair in the Florida Keys, and he has posted Instagram pictures that includes Hastings in Pirozzolo’s personal airplane as significantly again as 2014.
Investigators with the Justice Department’s General public Integrity division are now examining Gaetz’s interactions with youthful women and cannabis marketplace contacts, CNN noted, as part of a probe into no matter if Gaetz was provided with intercourse from escorts in trade for political favors. The sprawling prison inquiry that originated with Greenberg has considering the fact that morphed into an investigation into Gaetz’s purpose in an alleged prostitution ring that involves potential intercourse crimes with a 17-12 months-aged female.
The probe could quickly have a valuable new asset if Greenberg finalizes a cooperation settlement that could convert him into a govt witness towards Gaetz and other individuals. Though Greenberg was out on release through his final months of the Trump administration, he wrote a confession letter that mentioned he saw functions “occur to start with hand” involving Gaetz and the underage teenager.
Even so, Gaetz has not been charged with a criminal offense, and the govt has not publicly acknowledged a situation in opposition to him. Gaetz has also denied all prices, and instructed The Everyday Beast on March 31 that the last time he had sexual intercourse with a 17-yr-previous, he was 17 himself.
In August 2020, the thirty day period federal prosecutors filed a superseding indictment from Greenberg to incorporate the intercourse trafficking costs, Zalonka obtained a grand jury subpoena, in accordance to information reports, as very well as a particular person with expertise of the subpoena. In a Facebook write-up the future month, AMMPA canceled its annual October convention for the 1st time, citing considerations associated to COVID. The team hasn’t posted given that.
Gaetz, having said that, ongoing to interact with Zalonka on-line. As just lately as March 11, he commented “Smiling ninjas!” on an Instagram photo of Zalonka. Following The Daily Beast released its initial report about Greenberg’s mysterious Venmo transactions, Zalonka designed her Instagram personal. In recent months, her account seems to have vanished solely.