Who is Joel Greenberg? Matt Gaetz Probe Tied to Prosecution of Former Tax Collector

The prosecution of a former Florida tax collector has reportedly led the Justice Department (DOJ) to open an investigation into whether Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) had a sexual relationship with a teenage girl.

According to The New York Times, the DOJ inquiry, set up under former Attorney General William P. Barr, is said to be focusing on whether Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws. The Florida Republican denies all the allegations.

The probe reportedly emerged from a separate investigation into Joel Greenberg, a former local official in Seminole County, Florida. No charges have been brought against Gaetz as part of the probe.

Federal statutes make it illegal to entice a person under 18 years of age to travel over state lines to engage in sexual activity in return for money or some other sort of payment.

The alleged encounters reportedly happened two years ago, when the girl was 17.

"It is verifiably false that I have traveled with a 17-year-old woman," Gaetz said in an interview on Tuesday.

In a separate statement obtained by Newsweek, Gaetz claimed a former DOJ official is using sexual misconduct allegations to extort him and his family for $25 million.

"Over the past several weeks my family and I have been victims of an organized criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name," he wrote.

"No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation."

Greenberg, whom the New York Times describes one of Gaetz's political allies, was indicted last summer and arrested at his home by federal agents on June 23, 2020. He subsequently resigned from his post as tax collector.

Released on bond after his arrest, Greenberg was returned to jail this month for violating the terms of his 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew.

He faces 14 different charges, included sex trafficking of a child and financially supporting people in exchange for sex. Greenberg pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Other charges include allegations he illegally used a state database to create fake IDs and that he stalked a political opponent.

Prosecutors said he used surrendered drivers licenses to create IDs with his picture and the personal information of residents the licenses originally belonged to.

According to federal indictments filed with the U.S. Attorney's office in August, Greenberg, who is due to stand trial in mid-June, was also charged with producing "a false identification document and to facilitate his efforts to engage in commercial sex acts."

According to the Orlando Sentinel, some of Greenberg's former colleagues said he often boasted about his relationship with Gaetz.

A picture Greenberg shared on his Twitter account showed the pair at the White House in 2019.

@mattgaetz and @ChrisDorworth duckface and all. #WhiteHouse pic.twitter.com/oIAzfXgkCh

— Joel Greenberg (@JoelGreenbergTC) June 22, 2019

Two years earlier, he shared a selfie of himself and Gaetz along with Trump's political adviser Roger J. Stone. It remains unclear how Greenberg got to know either of the two.

Great catching up with @mattgaetz and @RogerJStoneJr pic.twitter.com/46SjAsiL42

— Joel Greenberg (@JoelGreenbergTC) July 9, 2017

Gaetz told The New York Times the DOJ had told his lawyers he was the subject of an investigation.

"I only know that it has to do with women," he was quoted as saying. "I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward."

A prominent Donald Trump supporter, Gaetz has developed a reputation for outlandish stunts. In 2019, he invited Charles Johnson, a white nationalist and Holocaust denier, to Trump's state of the union address.

In the same year, along with other Republicans, he stormed into the House Intelligence Committee to briefly break up an investigation into Trump after the Democrats had moved to impeach the president.

Last year, in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, Gaetz wore a gas mask on the floor of the House.

Matt Gaetz
Representative Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida, reacts to remarks by Representative Cedric Richmond on June 17, 2020, in Washington, D.C. Gaetz is reportedly under investigation from the DOJ for engaging in sexual activities with an underage girl. Erin Scott-Pool/Getty Images

Editor's Picks

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to Newsweek.com
  • Ad free Newsweek.com experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to Newsweek.com
  • Ad free Newsweek.com experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts