Gaetz associate pleads guilty
Joel Greenberg, an associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), pled guilty to six federal crimes on Monday, including sex trafficking of a minor, and has entered into a plea deal with prosecutors to cooperate in the Justice Department’s investigation into Gaetz.
Greenberg, a former Seminole County, Fla., tax collector, is at the center of the legal investigation looking into Gaetz and allegations against him involving sex crimes.
Greenberg admitted, as part of his plea deal, that he recruited women for commercial sex acts and paid them more than $70,000 between 2016 and 2018, sometimes sending money through digital payment services like Venmo.
Prior to the plea agreement, Greenberg had been facing 33 federal criminal charges.
Greenberg also admitted to paying at least one underage girl to have sex with him and other men.
In the plea agreement, prosecutors also revealed that Greenberg introduced the underage girl to others who “engaged in commercial sex acts” with her as well. The document, however, does not identify the other individuals.
The plea deal says that Greenberg met the underage woman on a website online, where she was posing as an adult. The first meeting between the two occurred on Greenberg’s boat. The woman was paid $400, but no sex acts occurred.
Greenberg subsequently invited the girl to a hotel in Florida, where they engaged in sex acts. Greenberg again paid her $400.
The pair later met at hotels, often with others, where they engaged in sex acts at least seven times.
According to the plea deal, Greenberg would often offer and supply the minor with Ecstasy, which he sometimes took himself. Greenberg often would pay the underage woman additional money to take the drug.
Greenberg also pled guilty to counts of fraud, stalking and aggravated identity theft.
According to the plea agreement, Greenberg engaged in a smear campaign against his political opponent, Brian Beute, who was vying for his seat as Seminole County tax collector.
Greenberg admitted to penning a letter to the prep school where Beute worked as a teacher, in which he posed as a “very concerned student” while falsely claiming to have had sex with Beute.
He also confessed to creating a fake Twitter account under Beute’s name, which he used to create the appearance that Beute was running on a racist, segregationist platform.
Gaetz, who previously denied any wrongdoing, was not named in the plea agreement or mentioned during the court hearing, according to the Associated Press.
In a statement to The Hill, a Gaetz spokesperson said, “Joel Greenberg has now confessed to falsely accusing an innocent man of having sex with a minor.”
Monday marked the first time Greenberg had been seen in court since the Gaetz investigation was elevated to the public spotlight in March, The AP noted.
Reports in April revealed that Greenberg was cooperating with federal authorities, and had told investigators that he and Gaetz had given multiple women money and gifts in exchange for sex.
Additionally, according to The AP, investigators are probing whether Gaetz and his associates tried to obtain government jobs for some of the women.
They are also looking into the congressman’s connections to the medical marijuana sector, and if his associates tried to sway legislation Gaetz sponsored.
-Harper Neidig contributed to this story, which was updated at 5:55 p.m.
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