Former Matt Gaetz associate Joel Greenberg sentenced to 11 years

Gaetz Investigation-Associate
In this Sept. 30, 2019, file photo, Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg is seen during an interview at his office in Lake Mary, Florida. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP, File)

Former Matt Gaetz associate Joel Greenberg sentenced to 11 years

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Joel Greenberg, a central figure in the investigation of firebrand Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), was hit with an 11-year prison sentence Thursday for sex trafficking and wire fraud charges.

Greenberg, a former tax collector in Florida, pleaded guilty in May of last year to six of 33 federal charges lodged against him and reportedly agreed to assist in a federal investigation of Gaetz for sex crimes. That investigation has not yet manifested any charges against the sitting congressman.

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“Nothing justifies my actions. My conduct is so shameful. I feel remorse for what I’ve done,” Greenberg said in court, according to an Associated Press report.

The charges to which he pleaded guilty included sex trafficking, stalking, wire fraud, identity theft, and conspiracy to bribe a public official. His lawyer pleaded with the judge to show restraint, highlighting Greenberg’s help with the investigations of 24 people, AP reported.

Prosecutors similarly recommended leniency, calling for a sentence between nine years plus three months and 11 years, but U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell ultimately opted for the upper threshold of that range.

Gaetz has been facing a Justice Department investigation into whether he gave money to a 17-year-old girl in exchange for sex — something the Florida congressman has vehemently denied. Gaetz and a friend of his allegedly met the minor through Greenberg, according to ABC. He previously described Greenberg as his “wingman” to associates, according to Politico.

Of the nearly two dozen investigations that Greenberg has assisted, 10 were being investigated for election fraud and eight for sex crimes, ABC reported.

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While prosecutors have internally leaned toward bringing charges against Gaetz, they believe that a conviction against him is unlikely, the Washington Post reported.

Gaetz has maintained that he was the victim of an extortion scheme by a man seeking $25 million from his family under dubious pretenses that he could secure a presidential pardon.

That man, Stephen Alford, has since been convicted and sentenced in the scheme.

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