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Friend of Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz sentenced to 11 years in prison in sex trafficking case

Joel Greenberg pleaded guilty to six federal crimes, including identity theft, stalking, wire fraud and conspiracy to bribe a public official.

The ex-Florida tax collector whose arrest led to a federal investigation into U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a former friend, was sentenced Thursday to 11 years in prison for sex trafficking of a minor and other offenses.

Joel Greenberg pleaded guilty last year to six charges, including sex trafficking of a minor, identity theft, stalking, wire fraud and conspiracy to bribe a public official, and agreed to cooperate with federal investigators as part of his plea agreement.

Prosecutors said Greenberg paid at least one minor to have sex with him and other men.

Former Seminole County, Florida, tax collector Joel Greenberg talks to the Orlando Sentinel in September 2019, during an interview at his office in Lake Mary, Fla.
Joel Greenberg, then the Seminole County tax collector, during an interview at his office in Lake Mary, Fla., in 2019.Joe Burbank / Orlando Sentinel via Getty Images file

“I let you down, and I betrayed your trust,” Greenberg said during Thursday's sentencing hearing, NBC News affiliate WESH reported.

Greenberg also apologized to the residents of Seminole County, where he was tax collector, as well as his family and a schoolteacher he smeared when the educator decided to run against him.

His cooperation with federal officials could play a role in an investigation into whether Gaetz allegedly sex-trafficked a 17-year-old girl. 

Gaetz has denied all allegations of wrongdoing and previously said they were part of an extortion plot. No charges have been brought against the Republican congressman, who represents a large part of the Florida Panhandle.

Greenberg’s scandal-plagued term as Seminole County tax collector started in 2017, around the time he and Gaetz became friends. According to the plea agreement in his federal case, Greenberg met the minor that same year on a website advertising itself as a place where ‘“sugar daddies’ could find ‘sugar babies.'"

Gaetz was not named in Greenberg's plea agreement.