Matt Gaetz Ally Expects to Plead Guilty in Sex-Trafficking Case
(Bloomberg) -- A former Florida tax collector who’s a political ally of U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz is likely to plead guilty in a child sex-trafficking and identity-theft case, a move that could pose a legal threat to the Republican congressman and staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump.
At a status hearing Thursday in federal court in Orlando, Joel Greenberg agreed with prosecutors that his case “should resolve by guilty plea” at a hearing set for May 15 before U.S. District Judge Gregory A. Presnell, court records show.
The New York Times reported last week that the Justice Department is investigating whether Gaetz violated federal sex-trafficking laws through his connection with Greenberg. Fritz Scheller, Greenberg’s lawyer, told reporters for CNN and other outlets after the hearing that he is “sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today” but didn’t elaborate further.
Scheller didn’t immediately respond to a subsequent message seeking comment.
The probe of Gaetz is focusing on his relationships with women recruited online for sex and whether he had sex with a 17-year-old girl, the Times reported. Gaetz has said the investigation is bogus and claimed he’s the victim of an extortion campaign.
Gaetz’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the hearing but on Thursday issued a statement attributed to “the Women of U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz’s official office.” The statement didn’t name the women but said they had staffed meetings and planned events for him.
“Congressman Gaetz has always been a principled and morally grounded leader,” they said. “At no time has any one of us experienced or witnessed anything less than the utmost professionalism and respect. No hint of impropriety. No ounce of untruthfulness.”
Greenberg, the onetime elected tax collector of Seminole County, Florida, was charged in June with stalking and using a bogus Twitter account to falsely accuse a school employee of having sex with a student and promoting white supremacy. He was also charged with unlawful use of another person’s identification. Additional charges for sex trafficking were added later, accusing Greenberg of having “sugar daddy” relationships with girls.
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