September 25, 2022

Attorney Fritz Scheller and Joel Greenberg appear during a hearing of Greenberg, a former tax collector in Florida’s Seminole County who is central to the federal investigation of U.S. Republican Representative Matt Gaetz, in federal court in Orlando, Florida, on May 17 2021. in this courtroom sketch.

Steve Bridges | Reuters

A friend of Rep. Matt Gaetz pleaded guilty to several crimes in federal court Monday – including sex trafficking an underage girl – in the case that led to a sex trafficking investigation against Florida Republican lawmakers.

Joel Greenberg, a former tax collector from Seminole County, Florida, has also agreed to cooperate and provide “substantial assistance” to the federal authorities in all investigations, including the investigation into Florida Congressman Gaetz.

Prosecutors will move a reduced sentence against Greenberg if they agree that he has fully cooperated. Greenberg, who remains in prison pending conviction, faces a prison sentence of at least 10 years for sex trafficking alone.

Florida Republican Matt Gaetz arrives for a GOP conference meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, United States on Friday, May 14, 2021.

Samuel Corum | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Gaetz, who was not charged, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, specifically denying having sex with a girl aged 17 when he was an adult. The Conservative represents Florida’s first congressional district in the panhandle and is a leading supporter of ex-President Donald Trump.

Greenberg appeared in federal court in Orlando, Florida, to plead guilty of six of the 33 crimes he was charged with.

NBC News reported that Greenberg, who was in shackles, wore prison overalls and a blue surgical mask during his request.

According to court records, his admitted criminal behavior included using a website to identify women whom he later paid for sex “with himself and others”.

Documents said Greenberg paid more than $ 70,000 to pay women for sex in 150 separate transactions.

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One of these women was under 18 “for part of the time” that she was paid by Greenberg for sexual acts “with him and others,” court documents say. Greenberg was accused of having sex with this woman at least seven times when she was a minor.

“Other men who introduced Greenberg to the minor in the presence of Greenberg when the minor was younger than 18 years of age for commercial sex acts with the minor,” the court records read.

Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg speaks to the Orlando Sentinel during an interview in his Lake Mary, Florida office. Greenberg was accused of trafficking a minor, persecuting a political opponent, producing forged ID, identity theft, embezzlement and bribery.

Joe Burbank | Orlando Sentinel | AP