Skip to main content

Matt Gaetz ‘Wingman’ Complains ‘Public Figures’ Got a Pass in Sex Trafficking Probe, Compares DOJ to ‘Nero Fiddling Away as Rome Burns’

A booking photo shows Joel Greenberg.

Joel Greenberg appears in a Seminole County Florida Sheriff’s Office mugshot.

Rep. Matt Gaetz’s (R-Fla.) self-described “wingman” complained that the Department of Justice appears to have given “public figures” a pass in their sex trafficking investigation.

A longtime cooperating witness, Florida man Joel Greenberg pleaded guilty to six of the 33 federal charges that he had been facing in May 2021, including a charge of sex trafficking a child. A federal judge repeatedly delayed his sentencing, with the government’s blessing, to allow him to provide information implicating possible co-conspirators. Greenberg was a former tax collector for Seminole County, Fla., and his cooperation also assisted public corruption, election fraud, and wire fraud investigations. Prosecutors indicted two of his associates — Keith Ingersoll and James P. Adamczyk — a little more than a year ago in November 2021 in an alleged $12 million real estate fraud scheme.

Another Greenberg associate, Joseph “Big Joe” Ellicott, agreed to plead guilty earlier this year to fraud and drug charges.

Still, Greenberg’s attorney Fritz Scheller suggested that the Justice Department spared others whom they could have prosecuted, and he questioned what message would be sent if his client were the only one to receive harsh punishment for it.

“If the Government is so concerned with general deterrence, then why hasn’t it prosecuted the other individuals, including public figures, who were also involved in Greenberg’s offenses?” Scheller asked in an 26-page memo on Monday evening. “Indeed, Greenberg’s plea agreement refers to the involvement of multiple co-conspirators including individuals involved in his sex offense. The identification of these potential co-conspirators was not only provided by Mr. Greenberg in his numerous proffers, but also has been collaborated by other witnesses and records. Unfortunately, at the time of Greenberg’s sentencing, many of these individuals have not been held to account.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer M. Harrington has asked Senior U.S. District Judge Gregory A. Presnell to impose a sentence roughly between 21 and 27 years in prison for Greenberg, who faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years behind bars on the sex trafficking count alone.

During Greenberg’s fall, the Daily Beast published the ex-wingman’s letter to Republican operative Roger Stone stating that he and Gaetz paid a 17-year-old girl for sex. The draft of the letter reportedly said that both he and Gaetz believed that the girl was 19 years old at the time. Gaetz has denied wrongdoing, and in September, the Washington Post reported that prosecutors recommended against charges for the Florida congressman.

In a remarkable footnote, Greenberg’s lawyer questioned whether charges would be filed against others whom his client implicated.

“Perhaps the DOJ in Washington is still moving forward on its prosecutions,” Scheller wrote. “Perhaps the DOJ will return the prosecutions to the capable hands of U.S. Attorneys in the Middle District or the State of Florida. Perhaps the DOJ will appoint a special counsel to address those individuals that implicate broader national concerns. Perhaps the DOJ are master strategists far beyond the capabilities of the undersigned. Or perhaps the DOJ is like Nero fiddling away as Rome burns.”

Federal prosecutors, meanwhile, pulled few punches on what they described as Greenberg’s “bold, brazen, and nearly undeterrable crime-spree consisting of sex trafficking of a child, illegally producing a false identification document, aggravated identity theft, wire fraud, stalking, and conspiracy to defraud the government.”

The government says the scheme persisted over the course of nearly four years, starting with the first day he took office as a tax collector by illegally using a government database. Between December 2016 and December 2018, Greenberg spent “$70,000 in more than 150 separate financial transactions to engage in commercial sex with women, disguised as ‘sugar daddy/baby’ relationships,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.

According to the memo, Greenberg used his personal accounts and a government credit card to fund his “commercial sex habit,” often in ecstasy-fueled trysts, including with the minor. His lawyer claims that Greenberg didn’t know one of the escorts was below the age of consent.

“After lying about her age, the victim posted her web profile on ‘Seeking Arrangements’ to offer her escort services to Greenberg and others,” the defense memo states. “The victim contacted Greenberg first to offer and arrange her escort services to Greenberg and to other identified, but uncharged, men.”

A pre-sentencing hearing has been set for Nov. 30, 2022, inside a federal courtroom in Orlando, Fla.

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime:

Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."