The guy who crowdfunded $25 million to build Trump’s border wall can’t use the money for his legal defense, a judge ruled

brian kolfage
Brian Kolfage in 2014.

  • A “We Build a Wall” co-founder can’t use the money he raised to pay for his legal defense, a judge ruled.
  • Prosecutors say Brian Kolfage used money intended for a US-Mexico border wall to enrich himself.
  • On Thursday, Kolfage was hit with a separate indictment alleging he underpaid his taxes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

“We Build a Wall” co-founder Brian Kolfage cannot use the funds he purportedly raised for a US-Mexico border wall in order to fund his legal defense in a criminal fraud case, a federal judge said Thursday in a ruling reviewed by Insider.

Kolfage has been under indictment since August 2020 for charges stemming from an alleged scheme related to a crowdfunding campaign for a wall at the US-Mexico border, a policy priority of former President Donald Trump.

In December 2018, during a government shutdown, Kolfage – a right-wing media figure who lost several limbs while serving in the Iraq War – tried to raise $1 billion to purportedly build the wall himself.

He ultimately raised around $25 million for the project, called “We Build a Wall.” Federal prosecutors in Manhattan say he took hundreds of thousands of dollars from that sum to enrich himself and spend on things like a boat, a luxury SUV, a golf cart, jewelry, plastic surgery, home renovations, and credit-card debt.

Prosecutors also charged Stephen Bannon, Trump’s former campaign chairman and top White House policy adviser, in the crowdfunding scheme, though Trump pardoned him on his last day in office. Trump did not pardon Kolfage or Andrew Babolat and Timothy Shea, two other alleged co-conspirators.

Shortly after the charges were filed in August, the judge overseeing the case, Analisa Torres, granted prosecutors’ request to freeze the funds Kolfage raised as part of a restraining order, court filings show. But Kolfage argued he needs the funds to pay an insurance policy he took out for “We Build a Wall” that would fund his legal defense.

In the new ruling, Torres, citing legal precedents, wrote that Kolfage’s constitutional right to counsel doesn’t mean she needs to unfreeze the funds so that Kolfage can pay his preferred lawyer.

“So long as a court finds probable cause that the restrained assets are forfeitable, a defendant is not entitled to modification of the restraining order to allow him to access funds to pay for an attorney,” Torres wrote.

Torres left a door open for Kolfage to overturn the restraining order and gain access to the funds. She said that he can still request a hearing to challenge the underlying probable cause that led to the restraining order, but he must prove he needs the funds to pay for his defense in order to request that hearing.

A separate indictment from federal prosecutors in Florida unsealed Thursday accused Kolfage of tax crimes. Prosecutors said that while Kolfage took hundreds of thousands of dollars for himself from “We Build a Wall,” he listed his income for 2019 at just $63,574.

Steinberg, the attorney Kolfage says he’s struggling to pay, was dismissive of the new federal charges in Florida.

“Unlike the government, we are not going to hold a press conference to celebrate the persecution of a war hero,” he told Insider.

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The guy who crowdfunded $25 million to build Trump’s border wall just got indicted on tax fraud charges

Brian Kolfage in 2014.

  • Brian Kolfage, who founded “We Build the Wall,” with Steve Bannon, was indicted in a new tax case.
  • A New York grand jury separately found the crowdfunding effort to be fraudulent in August 2020.
  • Donald Trump pardoned Bannon before he left office, but didn’t pardon Kolfage.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Brian Kolfage – the cofounder of a failed crowdfunding effort to build a wall along the US-Mexico border with Steve Bannon – is facing a new tax case after being indicted on federal fraud charges last year.

Newly unsealed court documents show that a federal grand jury in Florida indicted Kolfage on accusations of fraud and filing false tax returns.

According to charging documents reviewed by Insider, Kolfage’s tax filings for 2019 represented an income of $63,574. In fact, the charges say, Kolfage personally received hundreds of thousands of dollars that year through his “We Build a Wall” project and other organizations.

The charges were first reported by Bloomberg News.

In August, federal prosecutors in New York filed an indictment against Kolfage and Bannon, accusing them of using some of the $25 million raised for the “We Build a Wall” organization to line their own pockets. Two other right-wing political operatives, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea, were also charged in the scheme.

The prosecutors accused Kolfage of using $350,000 in donor money to fund a lavish lifestyle, including spending money on home renovations, a boat, a luxury SUV, a golf cart, jewelry, plastic surgery, and credit-card debt.

Kolfage launched the “We Build a Wall” fundraiser in December 2018, during a government shutdown, in a failed attempt to raise $1 billion to build a US-Mexico border privately. Trump himself had distanced himself from the project.

Trump pardoned Bannon, his former campaign chairman and chief White House strategist, on his last day in office. He didn’t pardon Kolfage, Badolato, or Shea.

Additional charging documents in the Florida case detailing how Kolfage handled his money were not immediately available in public court records. The indictment says Kolfage kept his money in the Pentagon Federal Credit Union, which typically represents members of the US Military. Kolfage is an Air Force veteran and lost both arms and a leg in the Iraq War.

An attorney representing Kolfage didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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A former Georgia sheriff’s deputy said he wanted to charge Black people with felonies to prevent them from voting, court documents show

georgia voting
Demonstrators stand outside of the Georgia Capitol building on March 3, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • Cody Griggers, 28, pleaded guilty on Monday to one count of possession of an unregistered firearm.
  • He told a group text he wanted to falsely charge Black people with felonies, court filings show.
  • He was fired from his job as a Georgia sheriff’s deputy, the Raleigh News & Observer reported.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A former Georgia deputy said he had plans to charge Black Georgians with felonies to prevent them from voting, according to court filings in the Middle District of Georgia.

Cody Griggers, 28, pleaded guilty on Monday to one count of possession of an unregistered firearm. He was fired from his position in November 2020 after FBI investigators messaged the Wilkinson County sheriff about the investigation into Griggers, the Raleigh News & Observer reported.

The FBI first became aware of Griggers from a separate federal case in California regarding an associate of his, Grey Zamudio. They started investigated Zamudio after receiving a tip about Facebook posts that said “it’s up to vigilantie militia to crush the liberal terrorists.” Investigators seized Zamudio’s cell phone from a search warrant where they discovered that he and Griggers regularly communicated in a group text known as “Shadow Moses.”

According to the filing, Griggers wrote extensively in the group about purchasing illegal weapons and explosives and “expressed viewpoints consistent with white racially motivated extremists,” including positive references to the Holocaust.

In August 2019, Griggers wrote in the group that he used excessive force on a theft suspect and said the beating was “sweet stress relief.”

“I beat the s— out of a n—–t on Saturday,” he wrote. “Sherrif’s dept said it look like he fell.”

Griggers also said he planned to charge Black Georgians with felonies to prevent them from voting, the court documents show.

“It’s a sign of beautiful things to come,” Griggers said. “Also I’m going to charge them with whatever felonies I can to take away their ability to vote.”

In Georgia, felons are not allowed to vote until completing the terms of parole, incarceration, probation, and all fines are paid.

Two months after detailing his plan to strip Black Georgians from being able to vote, Griggers reiterated his desire to disenfranchise voters in the event of a second Civil War, the filing shows.

“I think it might be best to fight the next generation,” Griggers wrote in the group text. “Castrate, kill, remove voting rights, and also educate the population. Basically kill and f— the enemy out of existence.”

After executing a search warrant at Griggers’ home in November 2020, investigators said they discovered an unregistered rifle with an illegally shortened barrel. Griggers’ work vehicle was searched as well, where officers discovered several additional weapons including a machine gun with an “obliterated serial number” that was not issued to him by the Wilkinson County Sheriffs Office. In total, investigators found 11 illegal firearms.

“This former law enforcement officer knew that he was breaking the law when he chose to possess a cache of unregistered weapons, silencers, and a machinegun, keeping many of them in his duty vehicle, said Acting US Attorney Peter Leary in a DOJ release. “Coupled with his violent racially motivated extreme statements, the defendant has lost the privilege permanently of wearing the blue.”

Griggers’ sentencing is set for July 6. He faces up to 10 years in prison for the firearm charge followed by three years of supervised release and a maximum fine of $250,000.

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After Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict, here’s why it’s still so rare for a police officer to be tried and convicted of murder

Chauvin fist
People celebrate Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict outside the Hennepin County Government Center on April 20, 2021.

  • Derek Chauvin’s conviction for murdering George Floyd was a rare case of accountability for a police killing.
  • Police kill around 1,000 people every year, but most cases do not result in criminal charges.
  • Experts say that lasting change in police accountability is unlikely to come from the courtroom.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict for the murder of George Floyd was met with relief. But it was also a rare case in which a police officer was punished for an unjustified killing.

It remains extraordinarily unlikely for police officers to be criminally charged for killing members of the public, and even more so for them to be convicted of murder by a jury.

Nearly a year after a viral video showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds on a street in Minneapolis, a jury on Tuesday found Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter, and third-degree murder.

Chauvin’s conviction marks the first time a white Minnesota police officer has been convicted for killing a Black person in the state.

“I think the natural favoritism and the bias in favor of police is always going to be the biggest obstacle,” Kate Levine, an associate professor at Cardozo School of Law and an expert in police prosecutions, told Insider.

Each year, police kill around 1,000 people. But, since 2005, just 139 law enforcement officers involved in an on-duty shooting have been arrested for murder or manslaughter, and just 44 have been convicted of a crime related to the shooting, according to database created by Philip Stinson, a professor at Bowling Green State University. Just one of these cases was in Minnesota, the state where Chauvin stood trial.

Floyd protest
Protesters during a silent march in memory of George Floyd on March 7, 2021, a day before jury selection began in Derek Chauvin’s trial.

But as Attorney General Keith Ellison said last June, “history shows that trying and winning a case like this one is hard.” Indeed, prosecuting a member of law enforcement is different from pursuing a case against an average person.

Police officers have the unique authority to use “reasonable” force when making an arrest or protecting themselves or others from harm. The determination of whether that force was reasonable, or rises to the level of criminal, is subjective.

Meanwhile, juries are more likely to believe a police officer’s version of events and how much force was warranted. According to an analysis by the Washington Post, fellow officers, who are seen as “highly credible eyewitnesses as well as experts in the proper use of force,” are unlikely to cross the so-called Blue Wall of Silence and testify against an officer who has been charged. One way that Chauvin’s case was exceptional was that his police chief, Medaria Arradondo, testified at trial that the killing of Floyd was not justified.

And finally, police who are charged with crimes are more likely to take their case to trial, rather than reach a plea deal with prosecutors, and they generally have access to experienced, high-priced lawyers, experts said. (In Chauvin’s case, the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association covered the cost for his defense.)

In the case of Chauvin, who was fired from the Minneapolis Police Department the day after Floyd’s death, the video evidence was unusually strong. The widely-viewed clips, shot from multiple angles, showed Floyd handcuffed on the ground by multiple officers and pleading that he couldn’t breathe.

Still, there have been other cases with strong video evidence involving police that never led to convictions, or even criminal charges.

New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo was caught on video using a chokehold on Eric Garner as he said “I can’t breathe,” but was never charged for Garner’s death. Video showed police officer Jeronimo Yanez fatally shooting Philando Castile during a 2016 traffic stop in a Minnesota suburb. At trial, Yanez was acquitted of all charges.

Chauvin BLM
People react to the Derek Chauvin verdict in Minneapolis on April 20, 2021.

George Floyd’s murder helped helped launch the “Defund the Police” movement and sparked a racial reckoning across America. But it is not yet clear if the successful prosecution of Chauvin will have a lasting change on how police officers who kill civilians are treated.

Charges in three of the five cases since 2005 in which law enforcement officers were charged with homicide for choking-related deaths were filed after Floyd’s death, Stinson’s data shows.

Cases of civilians being killed by police mounted even while Chauvin stood trial. According to an analysis by the New York Times, there were three such killings a day since March 29, when testimony against Chauvin began.

These included the fatal shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago on March 29. On April 11, not far from the courthouse where Chauvin was tried, an officer in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, fatally shot Daunte Wright, 20, during a traffic stop. And just 20 minutes before Chauvin’s verdict was read out, a police officer in Columbus, Ohio, fatally shot 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant.

It is not yet clear if any of those shootings will result in criminal charges.

Levine said she thinks the prosecution of police officers is not a fix for creating lasting change within police departments and stopping brutality.

“It’s a systemic problem that i don’t believe will be solved by the individual bad apple solutions,” she said. Instead, she recommended reducing police contact with citizens and defunding police departments.

“If we continue to ask police to continuously intervene in everyone’s lives and we continue to let them believe everyone is out to get them and continue to carry firearms, I think we will continue to see instances of police brutality.”

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A New York City investment manager has been charged with stealing over $2.4 million through PPP loans

ppp loan application
A page from the PPP loan application that people have to fill out for financial support due to the continuing outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is pictured on a desk in New York U.S., May 7, 2020.

  • New York City prosecutors charged a man with stealing over $2.4 million through PPP loans.
  • The man is accused of applying for five PPP loans and lying about the number of employees he had.
  • Prosecutors alleged he transferred the “vast majority” of the money to personal trading accounts.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A New York City investment manager was charged Friday with stealing more than $2.4 million from five lending institutions through Payment Protection Program loans, prosecutors said in a statement.

Gregory Blotnick, 33, is accused of applying for five separate PPP loans between April 2020 and August 2020, and lying about the number of employees he had at his companies, Brattle Street Capital LLC and BSC Management LLC.

While the loans were meant to cover payroll costs, prosecutors accused Blotnick of instead transferring a “vast majority” of the money to his personal trading accounts and losing it in the market.

“As alleged, Mr. Blotnick repeatedly took advantage of a system intended to provide lifelines to small businesses and their employees during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement.

Blotnick has been charged with five counts of second-degree grand larceny, five counts of second-degree criminal possession of stolen property, and one count of first-degree scheme to defraud.

“At a time when nearly 3,000 businesses were forced to close their doors across New York City, Mr. Blotnick diverted millions in vital PPP funds for his own personal gain,” Vance’s statement said.

It’s unclear whether Blotnick has entered a plea. Insider could not immediately locate an attorney for Blotnick, and his Linkedin page appears to have been taken down. Insider also could not immediately locate representatives for Blotnick’s companies.

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A hotel owner who was one of the wealthiest men in the UK was reportedly found stabbed to death at his $2 million country house

london street
The streets of London were empty on Monday with the city and parts of southeast England under new coronavirus restrictions to stem the spread of a new strain of the virus.

  • Sir Richard Lexington Sutton was reportedly stabbed to death at his country house in Dorset.
  • The hotel owner was listed as one of the richest men in Great Britain.
  • Sutton is believed to have known his attacker, according to the Dorset Police Department.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sir Richard Lexington Sutton, one of the richest men in Great Britain, was found stabbed to death on Wednesday night, according to the local newspaper Dorset Echo.

The Dorset Police Department launched a murder investigation on Wednesday after finding the 83-year-old Baronet at his country estate, according to multiple reports from the media, including BBC News. Police were called to the scene by a concerned member of the public, according to the local newspaper.

Sutton was pronounced dead on the scene due to the stab wounds and an unidentified woman in her 60s, who is believed to be his wife, was airlifted to a local hospital. The police reported she remains in critical condition.

The police tracked a vehicle believed to be connected to the scene of the crime and arrested an unidentified 34-year-old man who authorities suspect is connected to the incident, according to a press release. The police said the suspect was known to the Sutton family.

Sutton was a high-profile hotel owner, known for his five-star hotels on Park Lane and Piccadilly in London.

The hotelier is listed as one of the country’s richest men on The Sunday Times Rich List. His net worth was valued at about $400 million and he placed No. 435 on the list of the nation’s 1,000 wealthiest residents, ranking above Mick Jagger and George Clooney.

Sutton was the 9th Baronet in the Sutton family and responsible for 7,000 acres of land across the country, according to the Dorset Echo.

A spokesman for the hotel chain Sir Richard Sutton Limited told the publication Sutton would be deeply missed.

“Sir Richard was passionately devoted to both his company and its people, setting the highest and standards for quality in the hotels, farming and property interests within the group,” the spokesperson said. “His loss will be felt by everyone within the company, those who worked with him, and his family who have lost an incredible individual. Our thoughts are with the Sutton family at this tragic time.”

The Dorset Police Department and Sir Richard Sutton Limited did not respond to a request for comment from Insider.

Read the full story at the Dorset Echo.

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Trump Org CFO’s ex-daughter-in-law has ‘several boxes of documents’ left to give prosecutors, her lawyer says

donald trump pause mouth anxious
Donald Trump in 2018.

  • Jennifer Weisselberg has more documents to give prosecutors, her lawyer said.
  • She’s the ex-wife of a Trump Org employee and cooperating with investigations into Trump’s finances.
  • Weisselberg hired a former top official in the Manhattan DA’s office to sift through the documents.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Jennifer Weisselberg, a cooperating witness in investigations into Donald Trump’s finances, still has “several boxes of materials” she has yet to give prosecutors, her lawyer told Insider.

The attorney, Duncan Levin, said in an interview that he was hired to conduct his own analysis of the reams of documents Weisselberg has, which include Trump Organization financial records and show how intertwined the company is with the Weisselberg family’s finances.

“We’re basically culling through it methodically, and we will turn over documents and information to law enforcement as is helpful,” Levin said.

Weisselberg has been speaking with prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and the New York State Attorney General’s office as they investigate the finances of both Trump and the Trump Organization. The offices appear to be running parallel investigations into whether the former president and his company misrepresented the values of properties and other assets in order to pay less in taxes and procure favorable loan terms.

Weisselberg obtained the documents through a contentious divorce from Barry Weisselberg, who she was married to between 2014 and 2018, after a judge forced him to submit for a deposition and subpoenaed his financial information. Barry Weisselberg is the son of Allen Weisselberg, the longtime CFO of the Trump Organization who also manages the Trump family’s personal finances, and is a key Trump Organization employee in his own right as the manager of the company-run Wollman Rink in Central Park.

Read more: The Manhattan DA’s office picked up the pace of its investigation into Trump’s finances once it hired a prosecutor who used to pursue mob bosses, a cooperating witness says

Levin, himself a former top official in Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s office, is determining which documents might be relevant for the investigations before handing them over.

“She has joint bank account information, credit cards, tax records, tax returns – that’s the meat of what we’re looking at, to see what types of patterns we might be able to find,” Levin said.

Trump himself has disparaged the investigations as politically motivated. Allen Weisselberg’s attorney has declined to comment on his role in the investigations.

Weisselberg’s lawyer is an expert in financial fraud

In an earlier interview with Insider, Weisselberg said she gave “seven boxes of documents” to investigators in both offices, and that she had been cooperating with them since the fall.

She said investigators she spoke with appeared to be interested in information about the Trump Organization’s finances, how the company operates, and in potentially “flipping” her former father-in-law into a cooperating witness himself.

“They picked up documents many times. They ended up taking seven boxes of my documents and scanning them, going through them,” she said, adding that “they took depositions, they took checks, routing numbers, bank-account [information], and things like that.”

cyrus vance jr federal court
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.

Vance’s investigation in particular appears to be heating up. Shortly after Trump left office, Vance hired Mark Pomerantz, a seasoned prosecutor of white-collar crimes and mob bosses, to help the investigation. Pomerantz has interviewed Jennifer Weisselberg several times, she told Insider. And Vance is widely expected to bring indictments before he leaves office at the end of this year.

“It was my distinct impression that things are heating up and that this investigation is of intense focus for prosecutors at the DA’s office,” Levin said. “They are staffed up and ramped up to investigate every aspect of this that they can.”

Levin, now a partner with his firm Tucker Levin PLLC, worked as the head of the Asset Forfeiture division for Vance between 2011 and 2014. Prior to that, he held positions as a prosecutor at the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and in private practice with Vance, along with an earlier stint at the Manhattan DA’s office under Vance’s predecessor, Robert Morgenthau.

Together with a forensic accountant, Levin said he’s sorting through the remaining documents in Weisselberg’s possession.

“I’ve been building complex financial fraud cases for 20 years now,” Levin said. “I have been in close contact with the prosecutors’ offices. We have indicated to them that we are going through these documents in a very sophisticated way.”

donald trump jr allen weisselberg
Donald Trump, Allen Weisselberg, and Donald Trump Jr. in 2017.

Levin said the documents he’s reviewed show just how intertwined the Trump Organization’s finances were with the Weisselberg family’s finances. As Bloomberg News initially reported and Jennifer Weisselberg told Insider, Allen Weisselberg ensured his own family members got perks like apartment buildings and tuition payments through the Trump Organization – benefits that are now being scrutinized by prosecutors.

“I can’t comment on any specific documents that may or may not belong to the Trump Organization, but I can say that the source of funds for their lifestyle was largely from the Trump Organization,” Levin said.

Jennifer Weisselberg previously told Insider that the Trump Organization would give those perks in lieu of raises as a way to control employees.

“They want you to do crimes and not talk about it and don’t leave,” she said. “It’s so controlling.”

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A ‘gunfight’ at a Wilmington, North Carolina, house party shooting left 3 dead and 4 injured, police say

police car
  • Three people were killed and four injured after a shooting at a North Carolina house party.
  • Wilmington Police said officers responded early Saturday to the scene where “a gunfight had erupted.”
  • The shooting follows a violent month in the US.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Three people died and four were injured after a shooting at a house party early Saturday morning in Wilmington, North Carolina.

According to a series of tweets and a post on the Wilmington Police Department’s Facebook page, officers responded to a call that shots were being fired. After arriving at the location just after midnight, officers found “a gunfight had erupted inside the house during a house party.”

The department did not immediately identify a motive or publicly named the victims.

“Our hearts go out to all affected by this senseless violence, and we ask that anyone with information surrounding this incident please come forward so that we may find justice,” the post said.

“In my more than two decades as a prosecutor this is one of the worst crimes we have ever had in the Port City,” New Hanover District Attorney Ben David told Wilmington’s WECT 6. “The community’s unimaginable grief must be met with an equal commitment to get justice for all of the victims in this case.”

The news follows a violent few weeks involving several mass shootings in the US. A gunman killed eight people at three Atlanta spas on March 16. On March 22, another gunman killed 10 people at a Boulder, Colorado grocery store.

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Matt Gaetz was once accused of inventing a sex game where he and his male colleagues got points for ‘sleeping with aides, interns, lobbyists, and married legislators’

matt gaetz
Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz

  • Gaetz was once accused of creating a sex game with his male colleagues in the Florida legislature.
  • A state lawmaker said last year that Gaetz “created a game where members of the FL House got ‘points’ for sleeping with aides, interns, lobbyists, and married legislators.”
  • Gaetz denied inventing or taking part in the sex game.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz was once accused of creating a game in which he and his male colleagues in the Florida House of Representatives would score their sexual conquests.

State GOP Rep. Chris Latvala tweeted in January 2020 that Gaetz “created a game where members of the FL House got ‘points’ for sleeping with aides, interns, lobbyists, and married legislators.” Latvala’s accusation came after Gaetz criticized him for meeting with Rev. Al Sharpton.

ABC News reported that targets in the sex game also included staffers that the group of lawmakers had heard were virgins.

Gaetz denied inventing or taking part in the scoring system in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times.

The Miami Herald first reported on the existence of the game in 2017, but Gaetz’s name was not tied to it until 2020.

Read more: Secret Service protection would follow Trump if he goes to prison, former agents say

Allegations about the scoring system resurfaced this week after The New York Times reported that the Justice Department was investigating whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl in 2019 and broke federal sex-trafficking laws.

These are the main allegations against Gaetz, according to media reports:

  • In addition to looking into whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old in 2019, investigators are examining if he paid for her to travel with him and broke federal sex-trafficking laws by doing so.
  • According to The Times, the 17-year-old at the heart of the Gaetz probe is the same girl who was involved in a felony sex-trafficking count against Joel Greenberg, a former Florida tax collector who was charged with 14 counts and pleaded not guilty.
  • Investigators are said to be examining whether Gaetz used campaign money to fund travel and other expenses for women.
  • The Times reported that the inquiry is focusing on Gaetz and Greenberg’s interactions with “multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments.”
  • One person familiar with the conversations told The Times that Gaetz told the women to say that he paid for dinners and hotel rooms as part of their dates if anyone asked about the nature of their relationships.
  • People familiar with the encounters told The Times that some of the men and women, including Gaetz, took MDMA before having sex, and that in some cases the Florida lawmaker asked the women to find others who may want to have sex with him and his friends.
  • ABC News reported that the sex probe is focusing not just on Gaetz’s conduct in his home state of Florida but in other states as well.

Gaetz has denied ever paying for sex and claims the investigation into him is part of an elaborate scheme to extort his family for $25 million.

“Matt Gaetz has never paid for sex,” his office said in a statement to The Times. “Matt Gaetz refutes all the disgusting allegations completely. Matt Gaetz has never ever been on any such websites whatsoever. Matt Gaetz cherishes the relationships in his past and looks forward to marrying the love of his life.”

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Authorities are searching for a British woman who went missing from her boyfriend’s boat in the Virgin Islands

sarm heslop
Authorities are investigating the disappearance of a British woman last seen aboard her boyfriend’s boat.

  • The FBI is reportedly helping to search for a missing British woman in the Virgin Islands.
  • Sarm Heslop, 41, has been missing since March 7, when she seeing boarding her boyfriend’s boat.
  • Her loved ones have raised questions and suspicions about her disappearance.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The FBI has joined the search for a missing British woman who was last seen aboard her boyfriend’s catamaran weeks ago, a spokesperson told Insider in a statement.

Sarm Heslop, 41, was last spotted on March 7 on a boat moored in Frank Bay, St. John, but has been missing ever since, the Virgin Islands Police Department said in a statement.

The FBI spokesperson confirmed the agency has been “supporting local law enforcement” in their investigation, but clarified that local authorities are leading the search. The Virgin Islands Police Department immediately responded to Insider’s request for comment.

Heslop’s boyfriend, Ryan Bane, first reported her missing on March 8 at 2:30 a.m., hours after the pair went to dinner and returned to the catamaran where they went to bed, according to the BBC.

Heslop’s loved ones have created a website devoted to finding her, and have raised questions and suspicions about her disappearance and Bane’s actions.

One of Helsop’s friends, Andrew Baldwin, questioned why Bane waited nine hours to call the Coast Guard, after being told by Virgin Islands police to do so.

“This timeline just does not make sense to us,” Baldwin said in a press release. “We also cannot understand why Mr. Bane’s lawyer has denied officers’ requests to search the boat and exercised his constitutional rights to remain silent.”

The lawyer representing Bane, David Cattie, didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. But Cattie told The Detroit News in a statement that Bane called 911 just after discovering Heslop was missing, then gave a statement, provided a photo, and greeted Coast Guard members at his vessel and gave them an interview later that morning.

“Mr. Bane, at the request of Sarm’s family, then turned over her personal belongings to VIPD, including her cell phone, iPad, passport, etc. Ryan’s thoughts are with Sarm and her family at this time, and he is praying for her safe return,” the statement said.

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