Prosecutors: reduced sentence, prison sentence for a friend of Gaetz
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A former Florida tax collector whose arrest for sex trafficking and identity theft led to an investigation into U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz is set to have his sentence reduced for cooperating with authorities, but he still deserves jail time for sending a message that no public official is above the law, federal prosecutors said in court documents.
Former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg faces a 12-year prison sentence when sentenced in federal court in Orlando, Fla., in two weeks. But he cooperated with federal agents and provided assistance in several investigations, leading prosecutors to seek a reduced sentence. However, no other reason should be considered for any further declines, prosecutors said in court documents filed this month.
Court documents from prosecutors do not specify how many years in prison Greenberg’s sentence should be adjusted if his cooperation is part of the calculation. Prosecutors said it should be reduced by 10 levels in federal guidelines, which assign a base offense level for each type of crime.
“So it appears that the only thing that can be done to protect the public from Greenberg and deter him from future criminal behavior is for him to remain in jail,” prosecutors said in a sentencing memorandum filed this week. “This will serve to deter Greenberg from future criminal conduct, but will also send a message to others that public officials are not above the law.”
Greenberg faces conviction for six federal crimes, including child sex trafficking, identity theft, harassment, wire fraud and conspiracy to bribe a public official. Prosecutors said he paid at least one underage girl to have sex with him and other men. Greenberg pleaded guilty to the charges last year.
Greenberg’s cooperation could play a role in the ongoing investigation into Gaetz, who is being investigated over whether he paid a 17-year-old for sex. Gaetz has denied the allegations and previously said they were part of an extortion plot. Gaetz, a Republican, represents much of the Florida Panhandle. No charges have been brought against the deputy.
U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell agreed to prosecutors’ request to seal court documents dealing with an unnamed ongoing investigation. The request was made “in order to protect from public scrutiny certain sensitive information regarding ongoing criminal investigations that would come to light if the proceedings became public,” prosecutors said.
Greenberg’s plea agreement said the former tax collector admitted to being “involved in what are sometimes called ‘sugar daddy’ relationships where he paid women for sex, but attempted to disguise payments for ‘school-related’ expenses or other living expenses.”
Greenberg has been linked to a number of other Florida politicians and their associates. So far, none of them have been involved by name in the sex trafficking investigation.
Greenberg’s attorney, Fritz Scheller, said in court papers this week that prosecutors’ request for a reduced sentence was insufficient given that Greenberg’s cooperation led to the investigation or prosecution of seven people. Scheller asked the judge for a bigger reduction of 16 levels.
“At this point, his cooperation has led to multiple federal indictments and convictions, with more to come,” Scheller said.
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