Matt Gaetz Associate Joel Greenberg Pleads Guilty to Sex-trafficking

A friend of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) who is central to the probe into whether the embattled Florida congressman trafficked a minor for sex, is set to plead guilty on Monday morning and agree to co-operate with prosecutors.

Joel Greenberg, a former tax collector in Florida's Seminole Country, will plead guilty to six federal charges—including sex trafficking a minor—at a court hearing at 10 a.m. ET at a federal court in Orlando, according to an agreement submitted in court on Friday.

The other charges including producing a false identification document, identity theft, wire fraud, stalking and conspiracy.

In the plea agreement, Greenberg admitted to recruiting women for commercial sex acts and paying them more than $70,000 between 2016 and 2018.

Greenberg also admitted to paying at least one underage girl to have sex with him and others as part of his plea deal. Prosecutors said Greenberg connected with the girl on a website where she said she was an adult.

Later, Greenberg met her on a boat and paid her $400 before inviting her a hotel in Florida, where he and others would perform commercial sex acts with her, the documents say. He also gave the girl ecstasy and had sex with her at least seven times.

"Greenberg also introduced the Minor to other adult men, who engaged in commercial sex acts with the Minor," the plea agreement states. Greenburg's plea deal, signed Wednesday, does not name the other men.

Greenberg was originally arrested last summer on charges of stalking a legal opponent. An indictment filed against him alleged he mailed fake letters to the school where his opponent taught, signed by a nonexistent "very concerned student" who alleged the teacher had engaged in sexual misconduct with another student.

Greenberg was also charged last August with sex trafficking a girl between ages 14 and 17 and using a state database to look up information about the girl and other people with whom he was engaged in "sugar daddy" relationships, according to the indictment.

If the Florida tax collector co-operates fully, he will have his sentence reduced. The counts he has already agreed to plea guilty to have a minimum mandatory sentence of 12 years in prison, with a maximum of life behind bars.

Greenberg's plea deal is a blow to Gaetz, 39, a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump. Greenberg's close co-operation to Gaetz marks a significant escalation in the Justice Department's investigation and could add to the Florida lawmaker's legal and political crisis.

When the news of Greenberg's guilty plea broke on Thursday, Gaetz spokesman Harlan Hill questioned Greenberg's credibility.

"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," said Hill.

Newsweek has contacted Hill for further comment.

On Sunday, NBC reported that Gaetz allegedly equated the serious sexual misconduct allegations he is facing to "exchanging money for naughty favors."

He allegedly made the comments while addressing Republicans on Saturday's Ohio Political Summit in Strongsville.

"I'm being falsely accused of exchanging money for naughty favors," NBC News reported him as saying.

"Yet, Congress has re-instituted a process that legalizes the corrupt act of exchanging money for favors, through earmarks, and everybody knows that's the corruption."

Matt Gaetz in D.C.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) arrives for a House Republican conference meeting in the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center on May 12, 2021, in Washington, D.C. A friend of Gaetz central to the probe whether the embattled Florida congressman trafficked a minor for sex, will plead guilty on Monday and agree to co-operate with prosecutors. Getty/Chip Somodevilla