Gaetz friend faces sentencing in August, judge accepts pleas

·1-min read
This artist rendering shows Joel Greenberg, right, and his attorney Fritz Scheller, left, during a hearing in federal court in Orlando, Fla., on Monday, May 17, 2021. Greenberg emerged as a central figure in the Justice Department's sex trafficking investigation into U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Bridges)

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A central figure in the Justice Department’s sex trafficking investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz will be sentenced in August after a judge accepted a plea deal requiring him to cooperate with prosecutors.

Joel Greenberg, 36, pleaded guilty last month to six of the nearly three dozen charges he faced, including sex trafficking of a minor, and he admitted that he had paid at least one underage girl to have sex with him and other men.

Gaetz was not mentioned in the plea agreement. But Greenberg’s cooperation — as a key figure in the investigation and a close ally of Gaetz’s — may escalate the potential legal and political liability facing the firebrand Republican congressman from the Florida Panhandle.

Gaetz has denied the allegations and any accusation of wrongdoing and has said repeatedly he will not resign from Congress.

Greenberg, a former Seminole County tax collector, will be sentenced in Orlando on Aug. 19. A federal judge accepted his guilty pleas on Thursday.

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