A BANNER was seen across the sky outside a courthouse in Florida that read “Tick Tock Matt Gaetz” during the hearing of friend Joel Greenberg pleaded guilty to sex trafficking.
Greenberg, a former Seminole County Tax Collector, pleaded guilty on Monday to six criminal charges including child sex trafficking.
He reportedly admitted committing other crimes such as the production of a false statement, aggravated identity theft, wire fraud, stalking, and conspiracy to commit an offense against the US, according to court records, CBS-affiliate Click Orlando reported.
Magistrate Judge Leslie Hoffman scheduled a change of plea on Monday in Orlando at which Greenberg must provide “substantial assistance” in other federal probes and prosecutions.
In return for his assistance, prosecutors will discard 27 additional charges that were allegedly committed in his personal life during the time he was working as an elected official.
Greenberg is set to be sentenced in 75 days. Meanwhile, a probe will be launched to look into his criminal history, childhood, and details of his life.
Based on sentencing guidelines and minimum mandatory sentencing requirements, Greenberg could spend around 12 years in prison.
But his attorney Fritz Scheller told Click Orlando that Greenberg could face less time than that.
“I would not advise my client to sign an agreement that was not in his interest, in his best interest. Again, and I’m not being condescending at all, or patronizing... but you have to go back to the actual terms of the plea agreement,” Scheller said.
“You have to look at my brilliant writings on minimum mandatories and you’ll see that it’s not necessarily so,” he added.
Greenberg will also be expected to pay around $655,000 into his victims’ recovery. Those victims include Seminole County taxpayers.
He pleaded guilty to six of the nearly three dozen charges he faced, including sex trafficking of a minor, and he admitted that he had paid at least one underage girl to have sex with him and other men.
Gaetz was not mentioned in the plea agreement or during the court hearing. But Greenberg’s cooperation — as a key figure in the investigation and a close ally of Gaetz — may escalate the potential legal and political liability that the firebrand Florida congressman is facing.
Federal prosecutors are examining whether Gaetz and Greenberg paid underage girls or offered them gifts in exchange for sex, according to two people familiar with the matter told the Associated Press on Monday. Gaetz has denied the allegations against him.
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Investigators have also been looking at whether Gaetz and his associates tried to secure government jobs for some of the women, the people familiar with the matter told the Associated Press.
Monday’s court appearance marked the first time Greenberg has been seen in court since the Gaetz investigation blew into the public spotlight in March.
As part of his plea deal, Greenberg admitted he recruited women for commercial sex acts and paid them more than $70,000 from 2016 to 2018, sometimes through online payment services like Venmo.