WASHINGTON (AP) – A Florida politician who has become a central figure in the federal inquiry into Representative Matt Gaetz has agreed to cooperate with federal investigators and admits paying a minor to have sex with him and other men, according to court documents filed Friday.
Joel Greenberg is expected to plead guilty to six federal charges – including child sex trafficking – during a court appearance in Orlando on Monday. His cooperation as a close associate with Gaetz signals a significant escalation in the Justice Department’s investigation and potentially heightens the legal and political danger facing the Florida congressman.
Federal prosecutors have examined whether Gaetz and Greenberg paid underage girls or offered them gifts in exchange for sex, according to people familiar with the matter. The plea deal makes no mention of Gaetz, who vehemently denied the allegations and any wrongdoing and insisted he would not resign his seat in Congress.
As part of his plea deal, Greenberg admitted he recruited women for commercial sex acts and paid them over $ 70,000 from 2016 to 2018, including at least one underage girl he paid for. having sex with him and others.
Prosecutors say Greenberg met the girl online – from a website where she was posing as an adult – and had a first meeting with her on a boat, paying her $ 400. He then invited her to a Florida hotel, where he and others allegedly had sex with her and also provided ecstasy to the girl and others, according to the plea agreement. In total, prosecutors say Greenberg has had sex with the girl 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 reads. The plea deal, signed Wednesday, does not identify the men.
Prosecutors say Greenberg also used his position as Seminole County tax collector to access the state’s driver information database to “investigate” women he had relationships with. sexual and that he had sought the minor at least once because he “had reason to believe the minor was under 18 years old”, states the plea agreement.
Greenberg’s legal troubles began last summer when he was arrested on charges of tracking down a political opponent. He posted bogus letters to the school where his opponent taught, signed by a non-existent “very worried student” that alleged the teacher had sexually misconduct with another student, according to an indictment filed against him.
Greenberg was charged in August with sex trafficking a girl aged 14 to 17 and using a state database to search for information about the girl and other people he had a relationship with ” sugar daddy, ”according to the indictment.
Charges over allegations he embezzled $ 400,000 from the Seminole County tax collector’s office were added earlier this year, according to the indictment.
Investigators also investigated whether Gaetz and his associates attempted to secure government jobs for some of the women, people said. They are also examining Gaetz’s ties to the medical marijuana industry, including whether his associates have sought to influence Gaetz-sponsored legislation.
People were aware of the investigation but spoke to the PA on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation publicly.