A former associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has agreed to plead guilty to six of the 33 federal charges he was facing, including sex trafficking of a child, in a deal that also requires his extensive cooperation with federal authorities in ongoing matters.
In the agreement, filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, disgraced former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg, 37, admitted that he and several other adult men paid a 17-year-old girl for sex and provided her with narcotics such as ecstasy, which he also took.
“Greenberg was involved in what are sometimes referred to as ‘sugar daddy’ relationships where he paid women for sex, but attempted to disguise the payments as ‘school related’ expenses or other living expenses,” the agreement stated. “One of the individuals who Greenberg paid for commercial sex acts was a minor under the age of 18 for part of the time when Greenberg paid her to engage in commercial sex acts with him and others.”
Such commercial sex acts between Greenberg and the girl took place at least seven times when she was a minor, per the agreement.
While the other men who paid for sex with the girl were not named in the document, Greenberg’s deal is contingent upon him cooperating fully with “the investigation and prosecution of other persons” and requires him to testify “fully and truthfully before any federal court proceeding or federal grand jury in connection with the charges in this case and other matters.”
Greenberg also agreed to plead guilty to federal charges of identity theft, stalking, wire fraud, and conspiracy to bribe a public official. He is facing a statutory minimum of 12 years in federal prison and a maximum life sentence — though his cooperation with federal authorities could potentially allow for an even lesser sentence.
The agreement could be a turning point for investigators in the Justice Department who have reportedly been investigating whether Rep. Gaetz also violated federal sex trafficking laws and had sex with the same minor girl. The probe has reportedly focused on whether the minor girl and other women were paid to travel and have sex with Gaetz and his cohorts in the Bahamas and whether the purpose of the trip was to illegally influence the congressman.
Greenberg’s attorney last month insinuated that if his client were to reach an agreement with prosecutors it could involve providing some kind of damaging information about Gaetz.
However, according to a Friday report from the New York Times, Greenberg’s credibility issues may pose a problem for prospective prosecutors.
“Although Mr. Greenberg might have deep knowledge about the activities of Mr. Gaetz and others, using him as a witness could be complicated for prosecutors because he has a history of lying and has now pleaded guilty to a range of crimes, including some after he was initially charged by prosecutors last year,” the report stated.
Some legal observers noted that prosecutors would likely not move forward against Gaetz with any information provided by Greenberg unless there was “substantial corroborating evidence.”
Authorities previously executed search warrants and seized the personal cell phones of Gaetz and his former girlfriend in December.
Gaetz, who has not been charged, has denied wrongdoing, denied seeking a pardon from Trump, claimed he is the victim of an extortion plot, and blamed Attorney General Merrick Garland for an investigation that actually began when Bill Barr served in that role. Gaetz said he has never paid for sex and he claimed that the last time he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old was when he was 17.
Read the full agreement below.
[image of Gaetz via Graeme Jennings/Pool/Getty Images; image of Greenberg via the Seminole Co., Fla. Sheriff’s Office]
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