According to a court entry, a Florida lawmaker key to the probe into Rep. Matt Gaetz for alleged sex abuse of a juvenile indicated Thursday that he will plead guilty in his own criminal lawsuit, a disturbing move for the lawmaker because it means investigators have obtained a potentially valuable witness against him.
According to a source familiar with the situation, Joel Greenberg, a local tax collector for Seminole County, Florida, had been explaining to investigators how he and Gaetz (R-Fla.) would bribe people for sex using cash or gifts since last year when he worked to secure a plea bargain to settle his own legal issues.
Gaetz has categorically stated that he would never pay for sex.
Greenberg’s lawsuit was set for a “change of plea hearing” in federal court in Orlando on Thursday, signaling that he had made such an agreement.
Greenberg’s plea details were not actually filed in court, and it was unclear what allegations and evidence he would confess, as well as what reward he would get by doing so.
Cooperation is not required in all plea agreements, but it is one of the easiest opportunities for suspects to lessen their final punishment, and Greenberg has already been supplying prosecutors with facts about Gaetz in the hopes of leniency.
A federal judge still has to approve the deal.
The initial allegations against Greenberg resulted from his fabricating claims and facts against a political rival, according to Harlan Hill, a spokesperson for Gaetz.
“The first indictment of Joel Greenberg alleges that he falsely accused another man of sex with a minor for his own gain. That man was apparently innocent. So is Congressman Gaetz,” Hill said.
Since prosecutors and defense lawyers first announced they were bargaining at a court hearing last month, Greenberg’s defense counsel, Fritz Scheller, said the move should be concerning to the congressman.
“I’m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” Scheller said at the time.
Unlike other people’s intimate friendships, which revolve around dinner parties, binging on Netflix, and occasional weekend getaways, Gaetz and Greenberg‘s tend to be focused around numerous suspected sex offenses for which the men appear to have left digital paper traces on Venmo and other online payment channels.
Greenberg sold Gaetz out in a letter detailing their alleged sex crimes.
Although it might seem evident who Gaetz’s wingman is—the type who, by his own admission, slept with a 17-year-old and, according to sources, made fake IDs to “facilitate commercial sex acts”—the Daily Beast talked to 12 women about their encounters with the men.
Rep. Matt Gaetz’s sidekick and once close friend Joel Greenberg allegedly paying some women to do cocaine and have sex with him.
On the assumption of anonymity, twelve women decided to speak with The Daily Beast about their encounters with Greenberg and his associate, Gaetz.
All of them said it was their belief that Greenberg, who was elected tax collector for Seminole County, Florida before his indictment last June, was paying them at least in part for sex as far back as 2013.
Ten women told The Daily Beast that they have been pressured to drink or use drugs as a way to get into sex at one point or another.
Greenberg, according to all 12 of them, urged them to invite friends, either for himself or for Gaetz and other men he knew.
In their interviews, none of the women who spoke used the term “sexual harassment,” and the encounters seemed to span a wide range of situations.
Some women spoke of platonic encounters in which they were always paid.
Others admitted to having financially-motivated casual sex.
The worst part is that some of the women described their encounters as trauma, and four of them said Greenberg forced them to have sex, with one claiming she had sex with Greenberg and another woman after being plied with “an infinite supply of drugs.”
“I was under the influence of so many drugs,” this one woman said. “I would not have agreed to the other woman being there. I wasn’t really in a position to say I didn’t want to do this. I wasn’t in my right mind. I was in over my head and it was kind of scary.”
Greenberg paid this woman $375 via Venmo, with the memo “more to come” in the memo sector.
She returned the money two hours and 45 minutes after receiving it, according to the transfers, using just one word of her memo: “L.”
“I’ve felt so bad about all this,” she said.
Greenberg declined to pay three more women after they refused to do cocaine to have sex with him and a group of his associates, in comparison to the four women who said they were pressured to have sex with him.
Another woman said that after Greenberg discovered she had feigned taking ecstasy, he pushed her to take it.
“I immediately left right after and was sick on the way home,” she said.
About the fact that she didn’t have sex with Greenberg that night, she admitted to having an on-again, off-again romantic relationship with him for years.
“I absolutely felt pressured to have sex with him,” she said, noting that she never had any more contact with him after the ecstasy incident.
As another woman notes, she and a friend pretended to take MDMA, Greenberg got enraged and accused them they were “taking advantage” of him. They left the hotel because they felt Greenberg, who had taken two doses, was “dangerous,” she said.
One woman said she went to therapy to recover from the experiences, and another said she wanted to go to therapy after telling her story. Several women became very quiet after they described their ordeals.
During the interviews, three of these women sobbed.
A few women who turned down Greenberg’s advances said they didn’t understand why he kept paying them, but that they were willing to take the money and didn’t see the risk in it.
Other women characterized the former elected official as a “people pleaser,” but observed that while he was under the influence of alcohol or narcotics, his demeanor shifted.
One woman stated she had “never seen so many drugs.”
Over the course of two years, Greenberg paid almost $100,000 to over 40 young women using just Venmo and the Cash App.
One lady, for whom Greenberg paid over $7,000, asked a reporter from the Daily Beast for money twice in exchange for details, writing in one text, “pay me or gtfo.”
The woman was identified as a Venmo friend of Gaetz, but after the reporter approached her, the relationship ended, as did Gaetz’s friendships with many other women on the mobile payment website.
The essence of each of the experiences was similar. They made contact with Greenberg via the internet.
They had encounters in hotel rooms or at a neighbor of Greenberg’s home.
In return for sex, they were paid via Venmo or Cash App.
Many people were pressured to drink alcohol and use drugs, the most common of which being MDMA.
They were always asked to engage in group sex, which they did, with either multiple men or multiple women.
Greenberg allegedly promised to introduce them to a friend of his, “a congressman,” whom they assumed to be Gaetz, according to four women.
Gaetz paid Greenberg at least three times on Venmo or Cash App, according to records accessed by The Daily Beast.
And in one of those cases, Gaetz wrote in the memo sector, “Hit up ___,” a pseudonym for the girl with whom Greenberg claims in his confession letter that he and Gaetz had sex when she was 17.
The teen had only been 18 for five months before this exchange took place, but Venmo documents reveal that Greenberg had charged her almost a year ago.
Four of these women have been contacted by Federal investigators, and appear to be cooperating.
Greenberg was first charged with fabricating facts and accusations that a schoolteacher running against him for tax collector had an improper sexual interaction with a pupil, and his new indictment contains counts of wire theft and misleading statements for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan.
Gaetz and his lawyers are expected to portray Greenberg as a liar who made up claims against the congressman to protect himself from serious legal consequences, and prosecutors are unlikely to trust his testimony until it is backed up by other facts.
Facts like a paper trail, and eye witnesses, with Gaetz written all over it.