Matt Gaetz’s Wingman Just Pleaded Guilty to Sex Trafficking a Child

Joel Greenberg pleaded guilty to sex trafficking a minor and paying her to have sex with him as well as “other adult men.”
May 17, 2021, 3:46pm
Representative Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida, arrives to a House GOP conference meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, May 14, 2021.
Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican, arrives to a House GOP conference meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Friday, May 14, 2021. (Photo: Samuel Corum/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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Rep. Matt Gaetz’s legal peril just got worse. 

Gaetz’s former wingman Joel Greenberg, the onetime Florida tax collector whose criminal case spurred an investigation of Gaetz, officially entered a guilty plea in an Orlando courtroom Monday morning and agreed to cooperate fully with federal investigators.  

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Greenberg’s plea deal looks like bad news for Gaetz, a Florida congressman since 2017. The deal dramatically reduced the charges against Greenberg, from almost three-dozen to just six, while still placing Greenberg in line for years in federal prison. Among other charges, Greenberg pleaded guilty to sex trafficking a child and paying her to have sex with him as well as “other adult men.” 

Federal officials are reportedly investigating whether Gaetz and Greenberg paid underage girls for sex or offered them gifts, according to press reports.  

Under the plea deal, Greenberg agreed “to cooperate fully with the United States in the investigation and prosecution of other persons, and to testify, subject to prosecution for perjury.” 

Greenberg’s plea deal does not mention Gaetz or any other individual, so it remains unclear exactly how prosecutors might seek to use his cooperation. Gaetz has dismissed the investigation against him as groundless and repeatedly denied ever having sex with a minor or ever paying for sex.

The Daily Beast reported in April that Greenberg wrote a letter claiming that he and Gaetz paid for sex with multiple women, including one who was 17 at the time. Greenberg reportedly gave the letter to former President Trump’s longtime associate and former political adviser Roger Stone last year in hopes of securing a pardon, which never arrived. 

In Greenberg’s court documents, he admits to paying women $70,000 for “commercial sex acts” in 150 transactions between 2016 and 2018. Greenberg admits to engaging in a commercial sex act with a minor at least seven times, and to giving her the drug ecstasy. 

Greenberg also pleaded guilty to wire fraud, producing a false document, aggravated identity theft, and stalking. 

In return for Greenberg’s cooperation, prosecutors may recommend that the judge impose a more lenient sentence, or a prison term less than the mandatory minimum. That might help Greenberg a lot: Just one count against him, sex trafficking a child, carries a mandatory minimum of 10 years. If Greenberg doesn’t fully cooperate, the government could decide to reinstate the charges against him that were dropped as a result of his plea deal.