Matt Gaetz associate is working toward plea deal with prosecutors
Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, a prominent conservative in Congress and a close ally of former President Trump, is being investigated as a part of a federal sex-trafficking inquiry involving a 17-year-old girl, according to people familiar with the case.
An associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz is working toward a plea deal with federal prosecutors investigating a sex trafficking operation, potentially escalating the legal and political jeopardy facing the Florida congressman.
The revelation that an ally of Gaetz, Joel Greenberg, is seeking to strike a plea deal with investigators came during a hearing Thursday in federal court in Orlando. It’s a significant step in the case and signals that Greenberg could potentially serve as a witness in the Justice Department’s investigation into Gaetz.
“I am sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” Fritz Scheller, a lawyer for Greenberg, said after the hearing.
Federal prosecutors are examining whether Gaetz and Greenberg paid underage girls or offered them gifts in exchange for sex, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because they could not discuss details publicly. Gaetz has denied the allegations and insists he will not resign his seat in Congress.
As federal agents investigate Rep. Matt Gaetz in a sex-trafficking inquiry, the scandal is fast becoming an inflection moment for the post-Trump Republican Party.
A call to the congressman’s cellphone on Thursday yielded a message that he was not accepting calls at this time. He also did not respond to a text message.
When asked directly if Greenberg, a former tax collector for Seminole County, near Orlando, was cooperating with prosecutors on the Gaetz case, Scheller cited attorney-client privilege. But he said Greenberg’s cooperation would likely be contingent on whether it was required by prosecutors to get a plea deal.
“If someone signs a cooperation agreement, they are required to cooperate,” Scheller told reporters outside the federal courthouse in Orlando.
Scheller also refused to answer when asked if Greenberg had any incriminating evidence against Gaetz.
“I think if Mr. Greenberg accepts a plea agreement, he will want to show his sense of remorse, which he does have, and his sense of acceptance of responsibility,” Scheller said. “He’s uniquely situated.”
Greenberg’s legal problems began when he was arrested on charges of stalking a political opponent. Greenberg mailed fake letters to his opponent’s school signed by a nonexistent “very concerned student” who alleged the opponent had engaged in sexual misconduct with another student, according to a June 2020 indictment.
Greenberg was later charged with sex trafficking a girl between the ages of 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 an indictment.
He has pleaded not guilty. Additional charges accusing Greenberg of embezzling $400,000 from the Seminole County tax collector’s office were added last month, according to the indictment.
Greenberg had been scheduled to go to trial in Orlando in June.
U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell said Thursday the trial would be pushed back to July if Greenberg was unable to reach a deal with prosecutors by the middle of next month.
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