Joel Greenberg pleads guilty to child trafficking in the midst of a deeper investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz’s conduct with underage girls.
A Florida politician who emerged as a central figure in the Justice Department sex trafficking research Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz pleaded guilty Monday to six federal charges and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors as part of a lawsuit.
Joel Greenberg, a longtime associate of Gaetz, appeared in federal court in Orlando, Florida. He pleaded guilty to six of the nearly three dozen charges they faced, including sex trafficking of a minor, and admitted he had paid at least one minor girl to have sex with him and other men.
Gaetz, an ardent supporters of former President Donald Trump, was not mentioned in the statement agreement or during the court hearing.
But Greenberg’s cooperation, as a key figure in the investigation and a close ally of Gaetz, may increase the possible legal and political responsibility the Florida legislature faces.
Federal prosecutors are examining whether Gaetz and Greenberg paid minors or offered them gifts in exchange for sex, according to two people familiar with the matter.
People were aware of the investigation, but were not allowed to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Investigators are looking to determine whether Gaetz had sex with the same 17-year-old Greenberg who was accused of trafficking, according to news reports and a police source who spoke to Reuters.
Researchers have also been examining whether Gaetz and his associates tried to get government jobs for some of the women, according to people. They are also examining Gaetz’s connections to the medical cannabis industry, including whether his associates tried to influence Gaetz-sponsored legislation.
Greenberg’s lawyer, Fritz Scheller, suggested to reporters last month that Greenberg cooperating with federal investigators could have implications for Gaetz.
That feels like the ultimate Matt Gaetz https://t.co/tFm9iI7Ymg
– Molly Jong-Fast (@MollyJongFast) May 17, 2021
“I’m sure Matt Gaetz doesn’t feel very comfortable today,” Scheller said in April, after a court hearing where prosecutors noted an agreement was imminent.
Gaetz has denied the allegations and any allegations of wrongdoing and has repeatedly said he will not resign from Congress. A spokesman has said Gaetz “never had sex with a minor and has never paid for sex.”