- Joel Greenberg tried to use his relationship with Rep. Matt Gaetz to get a Trump pardon, Politico reports.
- Greenberg is facing a slew of federal charges for crimes including sex trafficking of a minor.
- Gaetz is also under federal investigation for sex trafficking and paying women for sex.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Florida politician Joel Greenberg tried pressure prominent GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz to secure a pardon from President Donald Trump, Politico reported.
Greenberg and Gaetz, close allies in Florida and strong supporters of Trump, are now facing scrutiny from the Department of Justice for the potential sex trafficking of a minor.
Two sources told Politico that Greenberg spoke multiple times about pushing Gaetz to use his relationship with Trump to ask for a pardon. Gaetz has refused to confirm or deny whether Greenberg asked for the pardon, but he has denied passing along the requests to Trump.
Politico also reported that in the days before being charged with sex trafficking in August of 2020, a panic-stricken Greenberg vented to an associate over encrypted messaging app WhatsApp that prosecutors were zeroing in on his Venmo transactions with the woman, who he called “vintage 99.”
Politico said the moniker, a reference to the year the woman was born, was her display name on the dating website SeekingArrangement, where mainly young women seek relationships with “sugar daddies.” The woman, who Politico did not name due to her status as a potential crime victim, did not return the outlet’s requests for comments.
“I’m having to pay for vintage 99 to retain [a] lawyer,” Greenberg wrote to the person, who Politico described as a powerful Republican in the state. “They [federal agents] contacted her and are wanting her to talk. She doesn’t want to talk to them.”
The person on the other end of the conversation didn’t want to be roped into Greenberg’s mounting troubles with the law, telling Politico that the entire exchange “felt like a setup.”
“I have nothing to do with any of this and think it is incredibly uncool you are trying to lawyer me up to be a part of it, Joel,” he said in the messages obtained by Politico, where he denied even having a Venmo account or knowing the woman in question. “Not. F–king. Cool.”
Greenberg, the former Republican tax collector in Seminole County, is currently facing a total of 33 federal charges, including sex trafficking of a minor, stalking a rival candidate for the tax collector’s office, aggravated identity theft, making fake IDs, wire fraud, illegal monetary transfers involving Bitcoin, and conspiracy to bribe an official at the Small Business Administration to secure fraudulent COVID-19 relief loans.
The sex trafficking charge carries a mandatory sentence of 10 years to life in prison.
The Department of Justice is also investigating Gaetz for illegal sex trafficking activity of a minor or paying women for sex, a probe that began under the Trump administration and appears to have spun off from the wide-ranging investigations into Greenberg. Gaetz, who has not yet been charged with a crime, has denied engaging in any illegal activity.
In December 2020 and January 2021, Trump pardoned or commuted the sentences of a number of his political allies including Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, his son-in-law’s father Charles Kushner, and former Reps. Chris Collins and Duncan Hunter, two of his earliest supporters, along with Hunter’s wife.
Greenberg and his lawyers are expected to strike a plea deal with prosecutors sometime in the next month. Former DOJ officials recently told Insider’s Sonam Sheth that the breadth and severity of the charges against Greenberg increase the incentive for him to cooperate against potential associates in his alleged crimes heightening the potential legal peril for Gaetz.
“It’s the same playbook he used against the teacher he falsely smeared as a pedophile,” the Republican on the other end of the WhatsApp conversation told Politico in referencing the stalking charge. “And he’ll do the same thing to Gaetz if he can get less prison time.”