MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – An associate of U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz who is facing charges in connection to a federal investigation involving sex trafficking is reportedly working on a plea deal.
The revelation that former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg is seeking to strike a plea deal with investigators came during a hearing Thursday at federal court in Orlando. It’s a significant step in the case and signals that Greenberg could potentially serve as a witness in the Justice Department’s investigation into Gaetz.
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“I am sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” Fritz Scheller, a lawyer for Greenberg, said after the hearing.
Gaetz has denied the allegations that he had sex with a girl who was 17 at the time and that he and Greenberg provided drugs and money to other women in violation of sex trafficking and prostitution laws. The federal probe is also working to determine if Gaetz was provided travel and women in exchange for political favors.
Sources said Greenberg paid for travel expenses and several escorts during a trip with Gaetz to the Bahamas.
Gaetz is expected to be the keynote speaker at a “Women for America First” this weekend at the Trump National Doral Miami.
When asked directly if Greenberg was cooperating with prosecutors on the Gaetz case, Scheller cited attorney-client privilege. But he said Greenberg’s cooperation would likely be contingent on whether it was required by prosecutors to get a plea deal.
“If someone signs a cooperation agreement, they are required to cooperate,” Scheller said.
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Scheller also refused to answer when asked if Greenberg had any incriminating evidence against Gaetz.
“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 said. “He’s uniquely situated.”
Greenberg’s legal problems began last summer when he was arrested on charges of stalking a political opponent. Greenberg mailed fake letters to his opponent’s school signed by a nonexistent “very concerned student” who alleged the opponent had engaged in sexual misconduct with another student, according to an indictment from last June.
Last August, Greenberg was charged with sex trafficking a girl between ages 14 and 17 and using a state database to look up information about the girl and other people with whom he was engaged in “sugar daddy” relationships, according to an indictment.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Additional charges accusing Greenberg of embezzling $400,000 from the Seminole County Tax Collector’s office were added last month, according to the indictment.
Greenberg had been scheduled to go to trial in Orlando in June.
U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell said Thursday that the trial would be pushed back to July if Greenberg is unable to reach a deal with prosecutors by the middle of next month.
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