Politics

Rep. Matt Gaetz friend Joel Greenberg pleads guilty in sex case, agrees to cooperate with federal authorities

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Key Points
  • Joel Greenberg pleaded guilty to multiple crimes in a case that led to a sex trafficking investigation of Trump ally Rep. Matt Gaetz.
  • Greenberg, a former Seminole County, Florida, tax collector, has agreed to cooperate and give "substantial assistance" to federal authorities in any investigation, which includes their probe of the Florida congressman.
  • Gaetz, who has not been charged, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and specifically has denied having sex with a girl as young as 17 while he was an adult.
Attorney Fritz Scheller and Joel Greenberg appears during a hearing of Greenberg, a former tax collector in Florida's Seminole County who is central to the federal investigation of Republican U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz, at the federal court in Orlando, Florida, U.S. May 17, 2021, in this courtroom sketch.
Steve Bridges | Reuters

A friend of Rep. Matt Gaetz pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to multiple crimes — including sex trafficking of a minor girl — in the case that led to a sex trafficking investigation of the Republican lawmaker from Florida.

Joel Greenberg, a former Seminole County, Florida, tax collector, also has agreed to cooperate and give "substantial assistance" to federal authorities in any investigation, which includes their probe of the Florida congressman Gaetz.

Prosecutors will seek a reduced sentence against Greenberg if they agree that he has cooperated fully. Greenberg, who remains in jail pending sentencing, faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison for the sex trafficking charge alone.

Representative Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida, arrives to a House GOP conference meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, May 14, 2021.
Samuel Corum | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Gaetz, who has not been charged, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and specifically has denied having sex with a girl as young as 17 while he was an adult. The conservative represents Florida's First Congressional District in the panhandle and is a leading supporter of ex-President Donald Trump.

Greenberg appeared in Orlando, Florida, federal court, to plead guilty to six of the 33 crimes that he was charged with.

NBC News reported that Greenberg, who was in shackles, was wearing a jail jumpsuit and a blue surgical mask during his plea.

Court records say his admitted criminal conduct included using a website to identify women that he later paid to engage in sexual acts "with him and others."

Documents said Greenberg paid more $70,000 in 150 separate transactions to pay women for sex.

One of those women was under age 18 "for part of the time" in which she was paid by Greenberg to engage in sex acts "with him and others," court documents say. Greenberg was accused of having sex with that woman at least seven times when she was a minor.

"Other men who Greenberg introduced the minor to engaged in commercial sex acts with the minor in Greenberg's presence when the minor was under the age of 18," court records say.

Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg talks to the Orlando Sentinel during an interview at his office in Lake Mary, Fla. Greenberg has been charged with trafficking a minor, stalking a political opponent, producing fake IDs, identity theft, embezzlement and bribery.
Joe Burbank | Orlando Sentinel | AP

The other crimes that Greenberg has admitted to in court papers involve fraud and the creation of fake ID documents.

Gaetz spokesman Harlan Hill last week noted that the first of a series of federal grand jury indictments against Greenberg alleged that he had falsely accused another man of having sex with a minor.

"That man was apparently innocent. So is Congressman Gaetz," Hill said at the time.

Gaetz last month hired criminal defense lawyer Marc Mukasey to represent him in the investigation. Mukasey also represents the Trump Organization in a criminal probe being conducted by the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.