Lawyer for Gaetz associate who will likely strike a plea deal: 'I am sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today'

Lawyer for Gaetz associate who will likely strike a plea deal: 'I am sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today'
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., is seen during a break in the House Judiciary Committee hearing on policing practices and law enforcement accountability in the Capitol Visitor Center on Wednesday, June 10, 2020.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
  • A lawyer for Matt Gaetz's associate Joel Greenberg spoke out Thursday after it surfaced that Greenberg may strike a plea deal.
  • Greenberg's lawyer said Gaetz is likely "not feeling very comfortable" in light of the news.
  • The two men are at the center of a federal sex-trafficking investigation by the Justice Department.

A lawyer for the former Florida tax collector Joel Greenberg spoke to reporters Thursday after it surfaced that Greenberg may be close to accepting a plea deal as part of a broad Justice Department investigation into sex-trafficking.

Greenberg and Gaetz are at the center of the inquiry, and Greenberg has so far been charged with 33 counts. Gaetz has not been charged, but The New York Times reported last month that he is also a target of the investigation, and that investigators are focusing on whether he had sex with a minor and violated federal sex-trafficking laws.

Greenberg's lawyers and federal prosecutors told a judge on Thursday that he will likely accept a plea deal. Speaking to reporters afterward, Greenberg's lawyer, Fritz Scheller, said, "I'm sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today."
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Gaetz has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and claims the department's investigation into him is part of an elaborate and convoluted scheme to extort his family. Both Gaetz and his father have said the FBI is investigating the alleged scheme, and the younger Gaetz showed emails to Politico that appear to confirm their claims.

That said, the Justice Department's inquiry into Gaetz began late last summer and had been well underway for months before Gaetz became aware of the alleged extortion plot. That doesn't necessarily mean his claims are untrue, but it does mean the department's investigation was not launched as part of any such scheme.

These are some of the key threads in the Gaetz probe:
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  • Investigators are also said to be examining whether Gaetz used campaign money to fund travel and other expenses for women.
  • The New York Times reported that the inquiry is focusing on Gaetz and Greenberg's interactions with "multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments."
  • One person familiar with the conversations told The Times that Gaetz told the women to say that he paid for dinners and hotel rooms as part of their dates if anyone asked about the nature of their relationships.
  • People familiar with the encounters told The Times that some of the men and women, including Gaetz, took MDMA before having sex, and that in some cases the Florida lawmaker asked the women to find others who may want to have sex with him and his friends.
  • ABC News reported that the sex probe is focusing not just on Gaetz's conduct in his home state of Florida but in other states as well.
  • CBS News reported that investigators are looking into a trip Gaetz took to the Bahamas in late 2018 or early 2019 with a hand surgeon and marijuana entrepreneur named Jason Pirozzolo. Sources told the news outlet that Pirozzolo footed the bill for travel expenses, hotel accommodations, and female escorts on the alleged trip, and that investigators are examining whether the women were trafficked illegally across state lines to have sex with Gaetz.
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