Joel Greenberg, Friend and Associate of Matt Gaetz, Expected to Plead Guilty

A former local official will likely strike a plea deal with federal prosecutors during the investigation into Republican congressman Matt Gaetz. 

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., grabs the hand of a supporter following a rally against U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., Jan. 28, outside the Wyoming State Capitol in Cheyenne. (Michael Cummo/The Wyoming Tribune Eagle via AP)

(CN) — Joel Greenberg, a Florida elected official facing federal charges, is expected to strike a plea deal, according to his attorney. 

On Thursday afternoon, Roger Handberg, an assistant U.S. Attorney and prosecutor on the case, announced Greenberg’s intention at a six-minute status hearing at a federal courthouse in Orlando. Greenberg’s attorney, Fritz Scheller, made the same claim. Neither attorney immediately responded to requests for comment. 

“I think if Mr. Greenberg accepts a plea agreement, he will want to show his sense of remorse, which he does have, and his sense of acceptance of responsibility,” Scheller told reporters after the hearing. “He’s uniquely situated.” 

The former Seminole County tax collector was once considered a rising star in Florida Republican politics. After he defeated the longtime incumbent Ray Valdez in 2016, he began to stoke controversy by announcing that his employees could openly carry guns to the office. This was also around the time his troubles with the Justice Department began. 

Last June he was arrested and charged with a variety of indictments, including identity theft and stalking. That August he was charged with one count of sex trafficking a 17-year-old girl in 2018. This investigation led the Justice Department to Florida Republican Matt Gaetz, who’s been accused of having sex with the same girl. 

The Justice Department has since added 21 more charges to his indictment, including allegations of cryptocurrency fraud and SBA loan fraud. According to prosecutors, Greenberg also used tax collector funds to buy memorabilia signed by Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. 

As a result, reports have poured in about Gaetz’s personal life: He’d peruse so-called “sugar daddy” websites seeking out women to have sex in exchange for money and gifts.  

The plea deal could provide federal prosecutors with a witness central to the case. In most of the accusations lobbied against Gaetz, Greenberg played a central part in organizing sexual liaisons with the women involved. 

Gaetz allegedly partook in these activities with his friend Greenberg, who served as a conduit between the women and the congressman: He’d reach out to women through the website and later introduce them to Gaetz, and then they would both have sex with them. 

The two were once recorded entering a closed tax collector office on a weekend, going through a basket of returned driver’s licenses set to be thrown out. Court documents later found that he produced fake IDs between September 2018 and June 2020. 

“I’m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” Scheller said. 

Greenberg’s indictment includes 33 counts of stalking, identity theft and sex trafficking. The Justice Department found that Greenberg gained $400,000 from the Seminole County Tax Collector’s Office and over $430,000 from the federal government through fraudulent Economic Injury Disaster Relief Loans. 

Greenberg also mailed fake letters to a school calling himself a “very concerned student” and made a fake Twitter account to allege that a political opponent was having sex with a student. 

The New York Times examined receipts from Cash App and Apple Pay showing payments from the Florida officials to two women.

“The women told their friends that the payments were for sex with the two men, according to two people familiar with the conversations,” the report said

Greenberg has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He’s scheduled to go to trial in Orlando in June, but on Thursday U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell said the trial would be pushed to July if he couldn’t reach a deal by mid-May. 

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