Who is Jason Pirozzolo? Matt Gaetz donor, cannabis entrepreneur allegedly paid for Bahamas trip under FBI probe
Sources aware of the investigation said Gaetz was allegedly on a Bahamas trip taken in late 2018 or early 2019 with a marijuana entrepreneur and hand surgeon named Jason Pirozzolo, who allegedly paid for the travel expenses, accommodations, and female escorts
A Bahamas trip taken in late 2018 or early 2019 by Florida Republican Representative Matt Gaetz -- who had reportedly asked the White House for blanket preemptive pardons for himself and unidentified congressional allies for any crimes they may have committed -- is now being looked into by federal investigators as part of an inquiry into whether he violated sex trafficking laws.
As per CBS News, sources aware of the investigation said that Gaetz was allegedly on the said trip with a marijuana entrepreneur and hand surgeon named Jason Pirozzolo, who allegedly paid for the travel expenses, accommodations, and female escorts. The feds are now attempting to determine if the escorts were illegally trafficked across state or international lines for the purpose of sex with the congressman.
"Traveling across state lines is what creates a federal hook for a prosecution," Arlo Devlin-Brown, a former prosecutor and partner at Covington & Burling, said. "It doesn't matter that [Gaetz] personally paid them as long as he knows someone is doing that."
The US representative for Florida's 1st congressional district, who is also a close ally of former President Donald Trump, is being investigated by the Justice Department over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him. Law enforcement sources earlier told NBC News that the investigation originated from an inquiry into someone else, Joel Micah Greenberg, who is awaiting trial on trafficking, stalking, and identity fraud charges. Greenberg has pleaded not guilty.
In a statement, a spokesperson from Gaetz's office 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."
Who is Jason Pirozzolo?
Pirozzolo is the Director of Sports Medicine and Trauma at Orlando Hand Surgery Associates (OHSA). As per the OHSA website, he pursued his undergraduate studies at Penn State University where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Pre-Medicine/Pre-Medical studies. He went on to Nova Southeastern University to earn his Doctorate of Osteopathic Medicine. He also completed a clinical externship in Emergency Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Pirozzolo is a co-founder of the American Medical Marijuana Physicians Association (AMMPA), where he currently serves as chairman of the board. Gaetz spoke at AMMPA conferences in 2017 and 2018. As per the report, investigators are also trying to determine if Gaetz was accepting paid escorts in exchange for political access or legislative favors. Gaetz, who has not been charged with any crime, has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
Potential quid pro quo
As per CBS News, in a July 2018 podcast, Pirozzolo said that Gaetz was working to introduce federal legislation that would boost medical research of cannabis. "In fact, Congressman Matt Gaetz is in the process of working on legislation up in Washington, D.C., that will help facilitate research on the nationwide level. And we should see a lot of good benefit from them," Pirozzolo said. "We've got Congressmen that are actually dealing with this federal legislation right now."
Gaetz introduced the Medical Cannabis Research Act in April 2018 and again in January 2019, though it never came to a vote. Devlin-Brown said about this, "If there's evidence of a quid pro quo that the congressman was provided with benefits in return for him sponsoring some legislation that's of interest to the donor, that that's a federal crime.”
As per FEC records, Pirozzolo made two separate donations of $1,000 each to Gaetz's campaign arm, "Friends of Matt Gaetz," in March 2016 and May 2017. Gaetz spoke to The Orlando Sentinel about Pirozzolo in 2019. "Dr. Pirozzolo served on the health care transition team," Gaetz told the newspaper. "I asked him to make transition recommendations for the Department of Health and to interview for the position of surgeon general, which he did."