ORLANDO, Florida – A former local Florida official facing a number of federal charges, including a sex trafficking count, is expected to plead guilty in the coming weeks, a prosecutor and defense attorney said Thursday could serve as the lead witness against the investigated representative Matt Gaetz work together.
A plea by former elected official Joel Greenberg could greatly strengthen the Justice Department’s hand as it is investigating Mr. Gaetz and others who have met Mr. Greenberg through Republican politics in Florida and are being investigated for possible sex trafficking violations.
Mr. Greenberg met women through a website that connects people willing to make appointments in exchange for gifts and allowances, and then introduced them to Mr. Gaetz, who said people had sex with them along with Mr. Greenberg, said people familiar with the matter .
Prosecutor Roger Handberg made the case of Mr. Greenberg public at a status hearing in federal court in Orlando, as did Mr. Greenberg’s attorney, Fritz Scheller. Mr Greenberg was slated to go to trial in June, but both sides set a May 15 deadline for a plea deal. If they don’t reach an agreement, the case would be brought to justice, they agreed.
Neither Mr. Handberg nor Mr. Scheller said whether Mr. Greenberg would agree to collaborate with the government’s open inquiry. Greenberg, 36, is expected to serve 12 years in prison, and legal experts said if Mr Greenberg had any hope of reducing that sentence, he would have to work with the Justice Department.
Collaborating on federal investigations usually involves being completely open in interviews with investigators and giving testimony in court proceedings and in front of large juries in related investigations. Those who cooperate early usually get the best deals from prosecutors. No other person is known to have been charged in this case.
Mr. Greenberg did not appear in court on Thursday. He was jailed in March for violating his bail policy.
Mr Greenberg, who has known Mr Gaetz since at least 2017 when he started serving in Congress, could provide prosecutors with a witness who has a deep knowledge of Mr Gaetz’s dealings with women and explain how men do women paid and how The two men bought and used drugs like ecstasy.
Mr. Gaetz, who has achieved a national profile in recent years as a prominent supporter of President Donald J. Trump, has denied that he paid for sex. The investigation against him arose from the case of Mr. Greenberg.
Mr. Greenberg ran for tax collector in Seminole County, northeast Orlando, in 2016, portraying himself as a crusader able to restore the integrity of an office corrupted by career politicians.
The Justice Department is investigating whether Republican Matt Gaetz, Florida Republican, has violated federal sex trafficking law.
- 38-year-old Gaetz was elected to Congress in 2016 and became one of President Donald J. Trump’s strongest supporters. The research focuses on the representative’s relationships with women recruited online for sex and whether he has had sex with a 17-year-old girl.
- The investigation includes an examination of payments to women. Investigators believe he paid to have sex with a number of women he met through Joel Greenberg – a former Florida tax collector who was charged with federal sex trafficking among other things last year – said people close to the investigation stood across from the New York Times.
- Mr. Gaetz has repeatedly dismissed the investigation as politically motivated and unfounded and defended his previous relationships with women. He has not yet been charged and the extent of his criminal exposure remains unclear. The investigation continues.
- The agent has alleged that his family is being attacked by two men who are trying to blackmail them for $ 25 million in an attempt to “make it go away” from potential legal problems. The men denied that they tried to blackmail the Gaetzes.
- Mr. Gaetz told the Times that he had no plans to step down from Congress. However, as the investigation progresses, he may face pressure to either resign or temporarily relinquish his seat on the House Committee that oversees the Justice Department.
After Mr Greenberg won, he began to act aggressively and eccentrically in his position, punishing those who worked for him, those who supported his rival in the elections, and using his position to enrich himself.
However, in June he was charged with pursuing a candidate who ran against him in his re-election. Authorities said that Mr Greenberg sent an anonymous letter to the school the rival worked falsely accusing him of having a sexual relationship with a student and that Mr Greenberg set up social media accounts that made similar claims. Since then, Mr. Greenberg has been charged with corruption and other charges.
In August, Mr Greenberg was charged with sex trafficking with a 17-year-old boy in 2017. Around the time of the indictment, the Justice Department began investigating Mr. Gaetz’s links with the same girl.
In the final weeks of the Trump administration, Mr. Gaetz asked the White House for a blanket pardon for any criminal behavior he had ever committed. Trump staff have vetoed this idea, and Mr Trump has said Mr Gaetz never directly asked his forgiveness.