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Gaetz Associate To Plead Guilty To 6 Counts, Cooperate With Investigators

Joel Greenberg, then a Seminole County, Fla., tax collector talks to the <em>Orlando Sentinel</em> during a September 2019 interview at his office in Lake Mary, Fla.
Joe Burbank
TNS/ABACA via Reuters Connect
Joel Greenberg, then a Seminole County, Fla., tax collector talks to the Orlando Sentinel during a September 2019 interview at his office in Lake Mary, Fla.

A former Florida politician who is a key figure in the investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz will plead guilty to sex trafficking of a minor and other offenses and has agreed to cooperate with federal investigators.

According to a copy of a plea agreement filed in federal court Friday, Joel Greenberg will plead guilty to six charges: producing a false identification document, identity theft, wire fraud, stalking, conspiracy and sex trafficking of a minor.

Greenberg, a former elected tax collector in Florida, is scheduled to appear in court Monday in Orlando, Fla., where he is expected to formally enter a plea of guilty. Court papers indicate he has agreed to cooperate fully with the Justice Department's investigation and prosecution of other individuals and testify in court if necessary.

The most prominent individual who could be ensnared in the Greenberg investigation is his friend and fellow Florida Republican, Gaetz. The 39-year-old congressman is said to be under investigation over possible sex trafficking of a minor.

Gaetz, who rose to prominence as a fierce supporter and ardent defender of former President Donald Trump, has denied any wrongdoing, and he has not been charged.

Greenberg was first indicted last summer on two counts, and prosecutors have added more than 30 charges since then, including sex trafficking of a minor, fraud and conspiracy. It was during the course of the investigation into Greenberg's activities that prosecutors are said to have turned up evidence that led them to scrutinize Gaetz as well.

In court papers accompanying the plea agreement, Greenberg admits to paying women for "commercial sex acts" with him and other men, who are not identified in the documents.

The court papers say that between 2016 and 2018, Greenberg used his personal Venmo and American Express accounts as well as his American Express work account to make more than 150 payments for sex totaling more than $70,000.

He tried to hide those transactions by labeling them as "school" or "food" or "ice cream," according to court papers.

One of the individuals he paid for sex was a minor, the documents say. Greenberg had sex with the teenager at least seven times when she was underage. He also introduced her to other men, who had paid for sex with her as well. Greenberg would often give her and others the drug Ecstasy and sometimes would take it himself.

The court papers include a list of dates when Greenberg and the minor texted or called as well as records of financial transactions. That evidence suggests that prosecutors believe they can corroborate Greenberg's statements.

As part of the plea deal, prosecutors agree to drop the other 27 charges Greenberg was facing, and to recommend a lower sentence if he cooperates fully with investigators.

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Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.