Matt Gaetz affiliate Joel Greenberg anticipated to strike plea deal in sex-trafficking case
Florida US Representative Matt Gaetz speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida on February 26, 2021.
Octavio Jones | Reuters
Joel Greenberg, a former Florida tax collector and employee of GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz, is expected to close a plea deal in his criminal case, his attorney and prosecutor said Thursday, NBC News reported.
The case against Greenberg, who had previously pleaded not guilty to having been charged with underage sexual trafficking, stalking, cable fraud and identity theft, among other things, prompted federal investigators to open an investigation into possible sexual trafficking by Gaetz, several outlets reported .
The signal of an upcoming plea came during a status conference on Greenberg’s case in Orlando. The defense attorney and prosecutor didn’t say whether Greenberg should work together on the Gaetz investigation, according to NBC.
“I’m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very well today,” Greenberg’s lawyer Fritz Scheller told reporters on Thursday afternoon.
Scheller declined to answer when a reporter asked, “Has your client Matt Gaetz introduced underage girls for sexual relations?”
A Gaetz spokeswoman did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request to comment on Scheller’s remarks.
The New York Times first reported last month that the Justice Department is investigating whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her travels with him.
NBC reported Wednesday that investigators are investigating whether women were being paid to travel to the Bahamas with Gaetz to have sex, and whether Gaetz and Greenberg were using the internet to look for women who could pay them to have sex .
Gaetz has emphatically denied the “terrible” allegations in the Times, declaring on a Monday that he was “absolutely not stepping down from Congress”.
Gaetz has also claimed he was the victim of a multi-million dollar extortion program involving a former DOJ official. Law enforcement sources told NBC that a separate investigation is currently underway into these extortion claims.
A spokesman for Gaetz told CBS News on Wednesday evening that the congressman “never paid for sex and never had sex with an underage girl. What started with headlines about” sex trafficking “has now become a general fishing exercise about vacation consensual relationships with adults. “
On Thursday afternoon, Gaetz announced a statement from his office in which the embattled Republican was defended as a “principled and morally founded leader” and vowed to “stand by him”.
This statement is attributed to “the women of Congressman Matt Gaetz’s office” and does not identify any specific employees.
Meanwhile, Gaetz’s former advisor Nathan Nelson said Monday that he had been approached by FBI agents and questioned about the alleged involvement of the GOP legislature in illegal activities.
Nelson told reporters that he had never seen any such illegal behavior and that his departure from Gaetz’s office last fall had nothing to do with the DOJ investigation, which reportedly began during the final months of former President Donald Trump’s tenure.