Joel Greenberg — the former Florida tax collector and running buddy of Rep. Matt Gaetz who pleaded to sex trafficking a minor — will face 11 years in prison. On Thursday, a federal judge sentenced Greenberg after he cooperated with authorities investigating Gaetz for sex trafficking the same minor as part of his plea deal.
“We expect the federal government to take on the hard cases and not just the easy convictions,” Greenberg’s attorney Fritz Scheller told CNN, adding that he was “disappointed” that no one else had been charged as part of the investigation, specifically “higher-level” individuals.
Greenberg was initially arrested in June 2020 for alleged attempts to “cause substantial emotional distress” to a music teacher who had filed to run against Greenberg, and was ultimately slapped with 33 federal charges. He has since pleaded guilty to underage sex trafficking, wire fraud, stalking, and three other charges.
The charge against Greenberg for sex trafficking led authorities to launch a separate investigation into whether Gaetz engaged in sex trafficking of the same person. Gaetz has denied paying for sex and having sex with a minor. As for Greenberg, he allegedly used fake IDs to “facilitate his efforts to engage in commercial sex acts” with individuals with whom he engaged in “sugar daddy” relationships.
According to The New York Times, Greenberg met Gaetz in 2017. That summer, Greenberg posted a picture of himself, Gaetz, and Roger Stone to Twitter. The picture was posted during the time period prosecutors said Greenberg was recruiting the 17-year-old in question for sex.
The Daily Beast reported last year that in May 2018 Gaetz sent Greenberg $900 through Venmo with a message “hit up _____,” the blank being a nickname for a woman who had turned 18 less than six months before the transaction. Hours later, Greenberg used the same app to pay three young women a total of $900.
The Daily Beast’s report also noted that Gaetz and Greenberg “share Venmo connections with at least two women who received [Venmo] payments from Greenberg, and both have professional relationships with each other.” The Times reported that the 17-year-old that led to Greenberg’s sex trafficking charge is the same 17-year-old investigators have connected to Gaetz.