An associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) is apparently preparing to plead guilty to criminal charges as scrutiny of the Congressman over similar issues intensifies. The associate, ex-county official Joel Greenberg, has been in prison awaiting trial on a slew of charges including child sex trafficking, and as explained by The New York Times, Greenberg’s intention to strike a plea deal with prosecutors will possibly entail him sharing information that could be relevant to other prosecutorial efforts, including the Gaetz investigation.
The revelation that Greenberg is ready to plead guilty came from a prosecutor and his defense at a Thursday hearing in Florida. Like Greenberg, Gaetz has been under federal investigation for issues including potential child sex trafficking and possibly paying for sex in violation of federal provisions against prostitution. Specifically, Gaetz has been suspected of potentially paying for a 17-year-old to travel with him under the pretenses of sexual interactions, which would constitute trafficking. According to a recent report from The Washington Post, Gaetz has “boasted” of meeting women through Greenberg, and the individual potentially victimized by Gaetz was apparently also victimized by Greenberg.
Prosecutor Roger Handberg and defense attorney Fritz Scheller have agreed on a deadline of May 15 for preparing a plea deal for Greenberg. Scheller noted that he “[expects] this case to be resolved with a plea deal,” which sounds pretty definitive, as though it’s not a matter of if but when at this point.
A guilty plea from Greenberg “could significantly strengthen the Justice Department’s hand as it investigates Mr. Gaetz and others who met Mr. Greenberg through Florida Republican politics and are being scrutinized on potential sex trafficking violations,” as the Times put it. The publication added that cooperating with federal investigations “typically entails being fully candid in interviews with investigators and testifying at trials and before grand juries in related investigations.”
Besides Gaetz’s potential involvement with Greenberg’s criminal activity, a CBS report revealed that he has also drawn investigators’ scrutiny over a trip that he took to the Bahamas with a Florida surgeon where escorts are believed to have been involved, which would have seemingly constituted international sex trafficking.
Scheller apparently did not conclusively say whether Greenberg would be cooperating with the Justice Department’s Gaetz investigation — but the defense attorney did have comments about Gaetz, suggesting that cooperation is on the horizon. Scheller said that he is “sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today.” Gaetz’s connection with Greenberg goes back to at least 2017, when the ex-county official posted a photo of himself with the Congressman. In the time since, Greenberg even visited the White House with Gaetz while Trump was in office.
“I am sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” – attorney for Gaetz associate Joel Greenberg on whether Congressman has anything to worry about now that his friend & associate is likely to plea. pic.twitter.com/YiAe7f4SA9
— Paula Reid (@PaulaReidCNN) April 8, 2021