An indicted close confidant of Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz has reached an agreement with federal prosecutors to significantly reduce his criminal case and plans to assist investigators in their extensive investigation, which includes a sex trafficking investigation.
Joel Greenberg, a former tax commissioner in Seminole County, Florida, faced decades in prison on 33 federal counts ranging from identity theft to minor sex trafficking, as well as fraud and bribery allegations.
According to a new court filing, he plans to plead guilty to six federal charges after reaching an agreement with prosecutors, including a count of child sex trafficking.
Greenberg’s plea documents, which were released on Friday, paint a picture of a man gone wild, using popular cellphone apps to make contacts, paying thousands of dollars for sex with younger women, having drug-laced, multi-person rendezvous at hotels like the Embassy Suites, and repeatedly abusing his public office’s power and financial coffers.
The federal court in Orlando announced on Thursday that Greenberg planned to enter a guilty plea next week, but no further details were provided.
Federal agents are still looking into whether Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking, prostitution, and public corruption laws, as well as whether he had sex with a minor. Gaetz has not been charged and maintains his innocence. The congressman is not mentioned in the 86-page plea agreement documents made public on Friday.
In a statement, Gaetz spokesman Harlan Hill questioned Greenberg’s credibility while insisting on his client’s innocence. “Congressman Gaetz doesn’t seem to be named nor referenced in Mr Greenberg’s plea,” Hill said. “Congressman Gaetz has never had sex with a minor and has never paid for sex. Mr Greenberg has now pleaded guilty to falsely accusing someone else of sex with a minor. That person was innocent. So is Congressman Gaetz.”
Greenberg admitted in the plea agreement to falsely accusing a Florida teacher of having sex with a student in 2019. Greenberg allegedly targeted the teacher after he filed paperwork to run for county tax collector against Greenberg. Greenberg admits to sending anonymous letters to school officials claiming to be from a “concerned student” alleging an inappropriate relationship between a student and a teacher. Greenberg also exaggerated these false claims on social media, claiming the teacher had raped a student.
Greenberg’s history of making false statements and accusations could be used against him as a witness in any case where he is called to testify.
Greenberg’s investigation resulted in an indictment last June on charges of elaborate schemes against a political opponent and the creation of fake IDs.
The majority of the charges centred on allegations that Greenberg stalked and harassed a political opponent who worked at a school by falsely framing the person as a white supremacist and child abuser on a fake Twitter account he allegedly set up using the person’s name and photograph, as well as in nine letters he mailed to the school while posing as an anonymous student.
Previously, CNN reported that Greenberg had been telling investigators about encounters he and Gaetz had with women who were given cash or gifts in exchange for sex.
Prosecutors also suggest that Greenberg had contact with others.
According to the document filed Friday, Greenberg intends to admit in court as part of his plea deal that he introduced a child “to other adult men who engaged in commercial sex acts with the Minor in the Middle District of Florida.”
Greenberg also contacted the victim “directly and through one of the Minor’s friends” after his arrest to encourage the person to lie, according to the document.
In the plea documents, prosecutors describe the sex trafficking scheme as a series of “sugar daddy”-style relationships in which Greenberg frequently attempted to conceal some of his 150 or more payments to women.
According to the document detailing his admissions, he paid women more than $70,000 for sex over two years ending in December 2018.
Prosecutors said Greenberg looked for women on a website for “sugar daddies,” then paid them with his personal Venmo account, bank account, and credit card. He also made use of an American Express card issued by his tax collector’s office.
Greenberg would mark payments of a few hundred dollars sent via the mobile app Venmo as school-related, “food,” or “ice cream” expenses.
Prosecutors claimed that a girl who was under the age of 18 at the time met Greenberg on the website and told him she was an adult. They then talked on Snapchat, another messaging app, until they met on a boat.
They didn’t have sex on the boat, but Greenberg still paid the girl $400, according to prosecutors. Greenberg later admitted in the plea agreement that he paid more than $400 for sex with the girl at a hotel in central Florida.
Greenberg’s communications with the victim in 2017 became more frequent as the hotel meetings became more frequent. Greenberg admitted in his plea documents that he began to offer to pay her and others to take the drug Ecstasy.
“Greenberg and the Minor met at hotels in the Middle District of Florida, often with others, at which Greenberg and the Minor engaged in commercial sex acts,” at least seven times, his plea admissions document says.
Greenberg also admitted as part of his plea agreement to a cryptocurrency scam in which he used tax collector funds to purchase cryptocurrency, to defrauding the federal coronavirus aid program, and to harassing a teacher who was his political opponent.
He also admits to using his access to the state driver’s license system to create fake IDs. Prosecutors say he offered some of the stolen licenses to the women he paid for sex.