A federal judge in Orlando on Thursday formally and in written fashion accepted a plea deal signed by Joel Greenberg, the disgraced former Florida tax collector and associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) who admitted last month to six federal charges, including sex trafficking of a child. Greenberg’s sentencing hearing has also been scheduled for Aug. 19.
Greenberg originally faced 33 federal charges. As part of a deal with prosecutors, he agreed to provide extensive cooperation and “substantial assistance” with an ongoing federal probe — the official contours of which remain unknown. But the “assistance” Greenberg is required to provide, observers have said, may not portend well for Gaetz, whose own actions are reportedly under increasing federal scrutiny.
Per U.S. District Judge Gregory A. Presnell’s order, federal prosecutors and Greenberg’s legal team are required to submit sentencing memoranda and exhibits by August 9th concerning how many years they think Greenberg should be incarcerated.
Greenberg also pleaded guilty to federal charges of identity theft, stalking, wire fraud, and conspiracy to bribe a public official. He is facing a statutory minimum of 12 years in federal prison and a maximum life sentence — though his cooperation with federal authorities could potentially allow for an even lesser sentence. Prosecutors have already indicated that they will recommend to the judge that Greenberg serve less time if he appears capable and willing to provide the agreed upon assistance.
Under the terms of the 84-page deal, Greenberg admitted that he paid a 17-year-old girl to have sex with him and others — and provided her with narcotics such as ecstasy. While the other men who allegedly paid for sex with the girl were not named in the document, Greenberg’s deal is contingent upon him cooperating fully with “the investigation and prosecution of other persons” and requires him to testify “fully and truthfully before any federal court proceeding or federal grand jury in connection with the charges in this case and other matters.”
Securing Greenberg’s cooperation has been widely viewed as a turning point for investigators in the Justice Department who have reportedly been looking into whether Gaetz also violated federal sex trafficking laws and had sex with the same minor girl. The probe has reportedly focused on whether the minor girl and other women were paid to travel and have sex with Gaetz and his cohorts in the Bahamas and whether the purpose of the trip was to illegally influence the congressman.
Federal prosecutors have not gone on the record to publicly discuss Gaetz. But authorities previously executed search warrants and seized the personal cell phones of Gaetz and his former girlfriend in December, Gaetz reportedly told multiple people.
Gaetz, who has not been charged, has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. He has also denied seeking a pardon from then-President Trump, claimed he is the victim of an extortion plot, and blamed Attorney General Merrick Garland for an investigation that actually began when Bill Barr was the A.G. Gaetz said he has never paid for sex and he claimed that the last time he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old was when he was 17.
Politico on Thursday reported that federal prosecutors have recently been investigating whether Gaetz may have obstructed justice during a phone call between the aforementioned ex-girlfriend and one of the women associated with Greenberg. According to the report, “at some point during the conversation, the ex-girlfriend patched Gaetz into the call,” though it’s not known exactly what was said.
A spokesperson for Gaetz responded to the allegations by saying the Congressman “pursues justice, he doesn’t obstruct it.”
See below for the court documents.
[image of Gaetz via Graeme Jennings/Pool/Getty Images; image of Greenberg via the Seminole Co., Fla. Sheriff’s Office]
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