ST. PETERSBURG Fla. (WFLA) – The owner of the yacht almost sold to the fiancée of U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida 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 WFLA. “Which federal law enforcment is both aware of and actively pursuing.”
Gaetz’s camp 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.
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 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 Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg.