By Rebecca Davis O'Brien 

A former Florida tax collector is set to plead guilty Monday to sex trafficking and other felony counts in a wide-ranging Justice Department investigation that is examining possible misconduct involving U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz and other Florida political figures, according to court documents filed Friday in federal court.

Joel Greenberg, who resigned as Seminole County tax collector last June, will plead guilty to one count of sex trafficking involving a person under 18 years old, along with counts of wire fraud, identity theft and stalking, according to an 86-page statement of facts filed by federal prosecutors. The plea agreement requires Mr. Greenberg to cooperate in the investigation -- which is being run out of Florida and Washington, D.C. -- including the "prosecution of other persons."

The investigation is looking at whether Mr. Greenberg, an associate and political ally of Mr. Gaetz, arranged for sexual encounters between the Florida Republican congressman and young women, The Wall Street Journal has reported. Investigators are looking at whether Mr. Gaetz violated sex-trafficking laws, the Journal reported.

"Congressman Gaetz has never had sex with a minor and has never paid for sex," a spokesman for Mr. Gaetz said.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Florida didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Gaetz has denied any wrongdoing and portrayed the accusations against him as part of an extortion scheme to get his family to pay $25 million to put an end to the investigation. Mr. Gaetz isn't named in Mr. Greenberg's plea.

Mr. Greenberg's plea agreement arrived in time for a May 15 deadline set in an April court hearing. After that hearing, Mr. Greenberg's lawyer, Fritz Scheller, told reporters "I'm sure Matt Gaetz isn't feeling very comfortable today." On Friday, Mr. Scheller said his client planned to plead guilty and was bound by the terms of the agreement.

Mr. Greenberg, 37 years old, admitted to paying for commercial sex acts, including as part of "sugar daddy" relationships arranged through a website where Mr. Greenberg said he paid women for sex acts with him and others, according to the statement of facts filed by federal prosecutors. Between December 2016 and December 2018, Mr. Greenberg used multiple work and personal accounts to conduct more than 150 financial transactions totaling over $70,000, all of which involved paying women for sex, according to the plea agreement.

One was an underage woman whose account on a "sugar daddy" website represented that she was 18 years old, the plea said. In 2017, according to the plea, Mr. Greenberg repeatedly paid her to have sex with him, meeting at hotels in central Florida, sometimes with other people, even though he knew she was likely underage. In these encounters, Mr. Greenberg would supply her and others with ecstasy, the plea said, and he also introduced her to other adult men who also engaged in sex acts with her.

According to the plea, Mr. Greenberg used his access to the state driver's license database to look up the minor's information. He also conducted "hundreds of unauthorized searches that had nothing to do with any legitimate activities of the Tax Collector's Office," the plea said. Two of the counts relate to those activities.

He also pleaded guilty to misusing tax collector's office funds, including through an elaborate fraud involving cryptocurrency and a blockchain company he set up. He funneled money to himself, he admitted, and concealed his efforts from auditors. Some of these activities continued even after Mr. Greenberg became aware of a federal investigation into the tax collector's office, when federal agents served a grand jury subpoena on the office, the plea said.

Mr. Greenberg was active in Florida GOP activities before his indictment last summer on charges that he tried to intimidate a political challenger. He pleaded guilty to a stalking charge in connection with this episode. A 33-count indictment was filed against him in March, expanding the charges to include financial fraud involving his office, as well as sex-trafficking and theft of government property.

--Siobhan Hughes contributed to this article.

Write to Rebecca Davis O'Brien at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 14, 2021 16:35 ET (20:35 GMT)

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