On May 17, 2021, Joel Greenberg, a former Florida tax collector and associate of Representative Matt Gaetz, pled guiltyto six federal charges, including sex trafficking a minor. As part of the plea deal, Greenberg also agreed to cooperate in other investigations by the Justice Department. This is the most recent development in the sex trafficking scandal involving allegations against Congressman Matt Gaetz that have been unfolding since March 2021.
The New York Times first reported on March 30th, 2021, that Congressman Matt Gaetz, of Florida and close ally of former President Donald Trump, was under investigation by the Department of Justice for an alleged sexual relationship with a minor. According to individuals briefed on the matter, the Justice Department is specifically investigating whether Gaetz violated trafficking laws by initiating a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paying for her to travel with him. The inquiry into Gaetz was the result of a broader investigation into Greenberg, who was indicted last summer for sex trafficking a minor and other charges. The former tax collector was accused of using taxpayer money to pay for sex and providing other prominent Republican politicians, like Gaetz, with access to woman and girls to be bought for sex.
Although Gaetz was not named during the court proceeding on Monday, Greenberg previously told investigators that he witnessed Gaetz have sex with the 17-year-old and pay her for performing sex acts. Gaetz has denied ever paying anyone for sex and has yet to be charged. However, Greenberg’s plea deal agreement requires him to assist the Justice Department in their ongoing investigations of Gaetz and other Florida Republican politicians.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for those in powerful positions to engage in abusive practices. The CSE Institute has previously reported on cases involving judges, prosecutors, law enforcement and other government officials misusing their power to manipulate and exploit vulnerable individuals. Most recently, the CSE Institute released a statement on the charges against former Pennsylvania Bar Association president, David Schwager, for patronizing prostitutes. Ultimately, the fact that people in the most esteemed positions in our society are accused of sexual exploitation demonstrates that the issues of sex trafficking do not discriminate based on class, gender, age or other demographic lines.
It is important to note that, under federal law, prosecutors do not need to prove force, fraud, or coercion when the sex trafficking victim is a minor. Under U.S.C. § 1591, it is illegal to knowingly recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide, obtain, advertise, patronize, or solicit a minor (defined as someone under 18 years of age) knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that the victim is a minor and would be caused to engage in a commercial sex act.
Similarly, Gaetz’ investigation arises from alleged conduct that violates the Mann Act. Under sections 2421 to 2423 of the Mann Act, it is illegal to knowingly transport any individual in interstate commerce for the purpose of prostitution. There is an enhanced penalty for the transportation of minors under the age of 18.
The CSE Institute is deeply disturbed by Greenberg’s conduct and the allegations against Congressman Gaetz. It is unacceptable for those who are responsible for safeguarding our laws to not only break the law but also use their powerful position to exploit vulnerable people. The CSE Institute commends the Department of Justice for fully investigating the alleged exploitative conduct by Greenberg and Gaetz. Individuals who exploit others, especially minors, have no place in our political system. We will provide updates on this case as they become available.