As expected, Joel Greenberg, the former elected tax collector in Seminole County (near Orlando) and friend and ally of Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, plead guilty on Monday to federal charges. The charges included sex trafficking a minor, ID theft, stalking and fraud. Greenberg reached a deal with federal officials which cut the original 33 charges to six, but is still facing the mandatory minimum prison sentence of 12 years. Greenberg has agreed to “cooperate fully” with federal prosecutors.
Now the focus will turn to Gaetz.
Many believe it is only a matter of time before Gaetz is indicted. However, Marc Caputo of POLITICO wrote:
In a sign that Greenberg’s cooperation is likely not enough to make a case against Gaetz, federal prosecutors are in talks for an immunity deal with his former girlfriend that seeks her cooperation. She has not spoken personally to investigators and her lawyer, Tim Jansen, has refused comment about what she would have to say, if anything, about any alleged crimes of the congressman.
Gaetz has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
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Citing “multiple people familiar with the situation,” POLITICO reported that Joel Greenberg, a close associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL-01), will plead guilty in an Orlando federal court Monday to charges related to the sex trafficking of a 17-year-old girl, in exchange for a lenient sentence.
Greenberg, a friend of Gaetz whom the congressman described as his “wingman,” could provide evidence to federal investigators in a separate case against Gaetz, according to the report.
“Greenberg, a former Seminole County, Fla., tax collector, has faced a series of federal indictments over the past year on charges including sex trafficking of a child, identity theft, producing fake driver’s licenses, stalking and fraud,” the report said. “He was also accused of making false claims against a political rival.”
It is unclear to which charges Greenberg will plead guilty, or what the structure of the plea deal could be, but sex trafficking of a minor carries a mandatory 10-year sentence.
Greenberg is alleged to have trafficked the 17-year-old girl across state lines for the purposes of having sex with men.
Gaetz denies ever having sex with a minor, though he says he has paid for meals and hotel rooms for ex-girlfriends. His spokesman, Harlan Hill, also noted that Greenberg has been indicted for falsely accusing another man of sex crimes for his own gain.
“The first indictment of Joel Greenberg alleges that he falsely accused another man of sex with a minor for his own gain. That man was apparently innocent. So is Congressman Gaetz,” Hill reportedly said.
Greenberg allegedly mailed letters to a school where a political opponent taught, accusing the teacher of inappropriate sexual conduct with a student. The letters, which were fraudulent, were reportedly signed by a “very concerned student.”
Greenberg was arrested for stalking last summer in relation to that incident, and that is where his legal problems began.
An ex-girlfriend of Gaetz is also an apparent target of the investigation.
“Two friends of Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend, who is not the 17-year-old, say she is in talks to be a witness for the prosecution but she wants an immunity deal for possible obstruction,” POLITICO reported.
The report says that Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend may have obstructed justice by calling the 17-year-old girl, and another woman related to the case.
POLITICO, citing “legal experts,” said that if “the alleged victim, the ex-girlfriend and Greenberg all cooperate against Gaetz, the chances of him being charged with sex trafficking a minor could rise substantially.”
Whether Matt Gaetz himself has been interviewed in the case remains unclear.
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Pete D’Abrosca is a contributor at The Florida Capital Star and The Star News Network. Follow Pete on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]. Update by Florida Capital Star Managing Editor Steve Stewart.