The associate could cooperate with prosecutors, giving them information about Mr. Gaetz's relationships that investigators are examining for possible sex trafficking violations.
ORLANDO, Florida - A former Florida local official who faces a series of federal charges, including an account of sex trafficking, should pleadr guilty in the coming weeks, a prosecutor and defense attorney said Thursday in an indication that the defendant may cooperate as a key witness against Representative Matt Gaetz, who is under investigation.
A plea from former elected official Joel Greenberg could significantly strengthen the hand of the Justice Department as it investigates Mr. Gaetz and others who have met Mr. Greenberg in connection with Florida Republican politics and are being scrutinized for possible sex trafficking violations.
Mr. Greenberg has met women through a website that matches people who are willing to go on dates in exchange for gifts and Allowances and then presented them to Mr Gaetz, who along with Mr Greenberg had sex with them, people familiar with the matter said.
TheProsecutor Roger Handberg brought up Mr. Greenberg's case at a status hearing at the federal courthouse in Orlando, as did Mr. Greenberg's attorney, Fritz Scheller. Mr Greenberg was due to stand trial in June, but both sides have set a May 15 deadline for a plea deal. If they didn 't come to an agreement, the case would be judged, they agreed.
Neither Mr. Handberg nor Mr. Scheller is sure if Mr. Greenberg would agree to cooperate with the open government investigation. Mr Greenberg, 36, likely faces 12 years in prison and legal experts have said that if Mr Greenberg has any hope of reducing that sentence, he should cooperate with the Justice Department.
Cooperation in federal investigations generally involves being fully honest in interviews with investigators and testifying at trials and before grand juries inrelated surveys. Those who cooperate early usually get the best deals from prosecutors; no other has been charged in this case.
Mr. Greenberg did not appear in court on Thursday. He was sent to jail in March for breaking the terms of his bail.
Mr. Greenberg, who has known Mr. Gaetz since at least 2017 when he started serving in Congress, could provide prosecutors with a witness who has an in-depth knowledge of Mr. Gaetz 's relationships with women, can explain how men paid women and how both men bought and used drugs, like ecstasy.
Mr. Gaetz, who has gained a national profile in recent years as a staunch supporter of President Donald J. Trump, has denied paying for sex . The investigation into him arose out of the case of Mr. Greenberg.
Mr. Greenberg introduced himself as a tax collector in Seminole County, northeast of Orlando, in 2016, running like a crusading alien who could restore the integrity of an office that had been corrupted by career politicians.
The Matt Gaetz Inquiry
The Department of Justice is investigating whether Republican Republican Representative Matt Gaetz Florida broke federal sex trafficking laws.
- Mr. Gaetz, 38, was elected to Congress in 2016 and is became one of the most fervent supporters of President Donald J. Trump. The investigation focuses on the representative's dealings with women recruited online for sex and whether he had sex with a 17-year-old girl.
- The survey includes a review of pay s to women . Investigators believe he paid for sex with a number of women he met through Joel Greenberg - a former Florida tax collector who was charged with the last year for federal sex trafficking, among other offenses - people familiar with the investigation told Hfrance.fr.
- Mr. Gaetz has repeatedly dismissed the investigation as politically motivated and unfounded, defending his past relationship with women. So far he has not been charged and the extent of his thCriminal exposure remains uncertain. The investigation is continuing.
- The representative claimed that his family was being targeted by two men who tried to extort $ 25 million from him in exchange for potential legal problems "go a way . "Men denied attempting to extort the Gaetz.
- Mr. Gaetz told The Times that he had no intention of resigning from Congress. But as the investigation continues, he could face pressure to resign or temporarily relinquish his place on the House committee that oversees the Justice Department.
After Mr. Greenberg's victory, he began to act offensively and extravagantly in his post , punishing those who worked for the one qui supported his rival in the election and using his position to enrich himself.
But in June, he was indicted on federal charges that he was hunting down a candidate against him in his bid for re-election. Authorities said Mr Greenberg sent an anonymous letter to the school where the rival worked, falsely accusing him of having sex with a student, and Mr Greenberg created accounts on social networks that made similar statements. Mr. Greenberg has since been charged with bribery and other charges.
In August, Mr. Greenberg was charged with sex trafficking for 17 years. old in 2017. At the time of indictment, the Justice Department began investigating Mr. Gaetz's links to the same girl.
In the final weeks of the Trump administration, Mr. Gaetz hasasked the White House for a general pardon for any criminal conduct he had ever committed, people familiar with his request said. Trump's aides vetoed the idea, and Mr. Trump said Mr. Gaetz never directly asked him for a pardon.