ST. PETERSBURG Fla. (WFLA) — The owner of the yacht almost sold to the fiancée of Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz claims the craft’s name was changed without his “knowledge or approval,” and before the deal was closed.
The sale of the $155,000 sailboat to Ginger Luckey fell through in late April, with a Gaetz spokesperson claiming the money “went missing” when the couple was allegedly was “targeted by malicious actors.”
“Rep. Gaetz and Ms. Luckey were recently the target of a financial crime,” the spokesperson told NewsNation affiliate WFLA. “Which federal law enforcement is both aware of and actively pursuing.”
Gaetz’s team would not say which agency is involved. An FBI spokesperson said the agency could neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation.
The now-former owner of the 41-foot yacht wrote in a May Facebook post that he listed the boat — named “Ol Pappy” — with a brokerage firm in February, and it was under contract in March.
Several owners of boats docked near Ol Pappy at the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina said they saw Gaetz and Luckey on the sailboat during the inspection process, known as the survey.
John Golly said the yacht was known on Pier 4 for its distinctive full-color logo on her stern.
“Very high-end job, whoever did it. Very nice-looking logo,” Golly said. “Very memorable.”
According to the owner’s post, he found out “two days before closing without my knowledge or approval” that his memorable logo was removed and replaced by the name Thirsty.
He wrote that the hailing port on the boat was also changed from St. Pete to Niceville, a city in Gaetz’s district. Gaetz went to Niceville High School and Niceville is in his congressional district.
The owner also said the prospective buyers had a “stay on my boat” and refueled it without his approval in the days before the scheduled closing.
About a week after the deal collapsed, Luckey posted a picture from a boat with St. Petersburg in the background.
The owner’s post said half of the downpayment money held in escrow is in dispute and the owner said he has hired an attorney.
Gaetz’s spokesman hinted some of the claimed missing money has been recovered, saying, “The parties are working to recover the rest of the monies.”
The yacht was eventually sold to a new buyer in a transaction that closed on May 21, according to the brokerage firm that listed the vessel.
Gaetz’s spokesperson did not return requests for comment about the claims of the owner, who has not offered any comment outside of his post about the transaction.
The survey was conducted about a week after news broke about the investigation into Gaetz’s potential connection to the sex-trafficking case involving former tax collector Joel Greenberg.
Federal prosecutors are examining whether the embattled 38-year-old representative paid underage girls or offered them gifts in exchange for sex and violated federal sex trafficking laws, people familiar with the investigation told the Associated Press.
A House Ethics Committee also announced in April it opened a bipartisan ethics probe into the embattled representative citing allegations of sexual and other misconduct. No charges have been filed, and Gaetz has denied the allegations, insisting he will not resign his seat in Congress.
Gaetz serves on both the Armed Services and Judiciary committees, and critics, including prominent Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have said he should immediately be removed from the Judiciary panel because it oversees the Justice Department.
The top House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy said last month the party would act against the embattled Florida Republican if legal action began. Internal House GOP rules require that lawmakers charged with serious felonies lose their membership in committees.
Greenberg pleaded guilty earlier this month to six of the nearly three dozen charges he faced, including sex trafficking of a minor, and he admitted that he had paid at least one underage girl to have sex with him and other men.
Gaetz was not mentioned in the plea agreement or during the court hearing. But Greenberg’s cooperation — as a key figure in the investigation and a close ally of Gaetz — is expected to escalate the potential legal and political liability that the firebrand Florida congressman is facing.