Move by Joel Greenberg an 'Ominous Sign' for Matt Gaetz

Former associate of Fla. congressman agrees to plead guilty to sex trafficking, including of a minor
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 15, 2021 6:00 AM CDT
Gaetz Associate Greenberg to Plea Guilty to Sex Trafficking
A file photo of Joel Greenberg.   (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP, File)

The potential bad news that's been looming over Matt Gaetz just got worse. The New York Times reports that Joel Greenberg, a former tax collector and associate of the Florida congressman, has agreed to plead guilty to sex trafficking, including of a 17-year-old girl, and to cooperate with the feds, signing court papers to that effect Friday in Orlando, Fla. Without naming names, Greenberg admitted in his filing that he had "introduced the minor to other adult men, who engaged in commercial sex acts" with her, with him sometimes in the room. A source tells the Times that Greenberg had previously named Gaetz as being one of the men who had sex with the girl, aware that she was receiving money for it. In the court papers, Greenberg, 37, confessed to paying more than $70,000 to women—including the teen—for sex, forking over up to $1,000 for each interaction. In addition to the sex trafficking, Greenberg also admitted to identity theft, defrauding the federal government, and stalking.

The Washington Post calls the news an "ominous sign" for Gaetz, said to be under investigation for sex trafficking of the minor in Greenberg's case. The development came as the Daily Beast posted a report of witnesses at a 2019 GOP fundraiser who said the event's after-party got wild, with Gaetz showing up with an escort as his date, allegedly snorting cocaine with her later that evening in his hotel room. A statement Friday from Gaetz's campaign noted his name hadn't been mentioned in Greenberg's filing: "Congressman Gaetz has never had sex with a minor and has never paid for sex." The statement also noted Greenberg had pleaded guilty to making a false claim against another person of having sex with a minor. "That person was innocent. So is Congressman Gaetz," the statement read, per ABC News. Greenberg could see up to 12 years in prison, though his cooperation with the DOJ may slash that. A plea hearing is set for Monday morning, his rep tells the Post. (Read more Matt Gaetz stories.)

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