- The Matt Gaetz associate Joel Greenberg plans to plead guilty to six felony counts in a plea deal.
- The charges include sex trafficking, wire fraud, and identity theft.
- Greenberg’s attorneys and federal prosecutors will formally announce the plea to a judge Monday.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The former Florida county tax collector Joel Greenberg will plead guilty to six felony counts including sex trafficking, identity theft, and wire fraud, a significant downgrade from the 33 federal charges he was facing through multiple indictments, Insider has learned.
Greenberg is scheduled to appear in court Monday morning to formalize the plea agreement with Justice Department prosecutors, who are investigating whether he and Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida violated federal sex-trafficking laws. A judge will have to sign off on the agreement before it is finalized.
Federal prosecutors in Orlando, Florida, initially charged Greenberg in June 2020; after a series of superseding indictments, the total hit 33 felony counts as varied as sex trafficking, stalking, and cryptocurrency fraud.
But a source familiar with the plea deal said the former Seminole County tax collector would admit to six of those charges.
The plea deal is expected to include standard language that Greenberg must cooperate fully with the US government in his case and any other related matters. That could mean testifying in court or before a federal grand jury in the event of a trial. That could be bad news for Gaetz, a GOP congressman and Trump loyalist.
Greenberg’s cooperation with the federal government has been widely known. When news broke in April that his client seemed interested in plea deal, Greenberg’s attorney Fritz Scheller told reporters, “I’m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today.”
Legal experts told Insider the prosecutors’ decision to whittle the charges down suggested he had information of significant value.
“His cooperation requires him to be providing truthful testimony and to provide it at the government’s request,” said David Weinstein, a former assistant US attorney for the Southern District of Florida. He told Insider that Greenberg’s plea agreement would also be significant because it could mean he’d testify in front of a grand jury should Gaetz be charged with a crime and go to trial.
Prosecutors accused Greenberg, among other things, of carrying out the sex trafficking of a minor between the ages of 14 and 17. Gaetz is also suspected of having had a sexual relationship with the same person, who was 17 at the time of the alleged encounters in 2019.
Cooperating since late 2020
Greenberg had been cooperating since last year with federal authorities in the case against Gaetz, The New York Times reported in April. He’s said to have given investigators information about an “array of topics,” according to the report, including telling them that he and Gaetz had interactions with women who were given cash and gifts in exchange for sex.
According to The Daily Beast, Greenberg also said in a recent letter that Gaetz paid for sex with a minor. Greenberg is said to have sent the letter to the longtime GOP strategist Roger Stone in the final months of Donald Trump’s presidency in a last-ditch bid to obtain a pardon.
“From time to time, gas money or gifts, rent or partial tuition payments were made to several of these girls, including the individual who was not yet 18. I did see the acts occur firsthand and Venmo transactions, Cash App, or other payments were made to these girls on behalf of the Congressman,” Greenberg said in the letter, according to the report.
The media outlet also reported earlier that Gaetz sent Greenberg a Venmo payment of $900 in 2018. The following day, Greenberg sent three women various sums of money that totaled $900 using the same app.
This week’s latest developments come days after CNN reported that federal investigators were also seeking the cooperation of a former Capitol Hill intern who used to date Gaetz. The intern did not work in Gaetz’s office.
Gaetz, who has not been charged with a crime, has vehemently denied the allegations against him and insisted the Justice Department’s investigation is part of an elaborate, multimillion-dollar extortion scheme against him and his family.
“The first indictment of Joel Greenberg alleges that he falsely accused another man of sex with a minor for his own gain. That man was apparently innocent. So is Congressman Gaetz,” said Harlan Hill, a spokesman for the lawmaker. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Gaetz has hired legal representation amid the growing investigation, and his office released a statement in early April from unnamed female staffers in his office insisting their boss “has always been a principled and morally grounded leader.”
That’s not exactly the full picture on Capitol Hill. Also in April, Insider reported Gaetz made his staff members do his hair and makeup before TV hits and got “irate” if too few people showed up at his events. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican of Illinois, has called for Gaetz’s resignation.
Sherine Ebadi, a former FBI agent who served as the lead agent in the government’s case against the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, told Insider that Greenberg’s cooperation would be a nightmare scenario for Gaetz.
“What Gaetz would be concerned about is if there’s a cooperation agreement in this matter that involves the defendant flipping on him,” she said. “That gets scary for coconspirators because they know someone who’s either aware of their crimes or someone they coconspired with is now working with the government.”