ORLANDO, Fla. — A change-of-plea hearing has been set for Joel Greenberg, the former Seminole County tax collector and ally of U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz who last month pleaded not guilty to charges of embezzlement and sex trafficking of a child and is accused in an identity-theft scheme.
What You Need To Know
- Joel Greenberg previously had pleaded not guilty to child sex trafficking and embezzlement
- The former Seminole County tax collector is an ally of U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida
- He's also accused in an ID-theft scheme in which investigators say he was stealing driver's licenses
- RELATED: Joel Greenberg, Gaetz Ally, Granted Plea Deadline in Orlando Federal Court
Greenberg’s hearing has been set for 10 a.m. Monday in Orlando before Magistrate Judge Leslie R. Hoffman of U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. Notice of the hearing could indicate that Greenberg will plead guilty and that he has entered a cooperation agreement with federal prosecutors, which reports suggest would be bad news for Gaetz.
Greenberg is required to appear at the hearing, according to the judge's Thursday order and notice.
A change of plea is a guilty plea in a criminal case, according to a U.S District Court website.
“It is referred to as a ‘change’ because the defendant had pled 'not guilty' to the charges during a previous proceeding, usually during the post indictment arraignment, and now has decided to plead guilty to the charges instead of going to trial,” according to a document on the website.
Greenberg's case has brought scrutiny on Gaetz, R-Florida, amid reports that federal prosecutors were examining both over allegations they may have paid underaged girls for sex with money and gifts.
In early April, a federal court granted Greenberg a May 15 deadline to reach a plea agreement in a case that increasingly turned up the heat on Gaetz, who has denied the allegations.
"I'm sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today," Greenberg attorney Fritz Scheller said at the time when asked whether he thought the congressman was worried that Greenberg might make a plea deal. Scheller clarified to say that because of the media emphasis on the Greenberg-Gaetz relationship, “wouldn’t it be obvious to assume that he would be concerned?”
But Orlando criminal law attorney Andrew Moses told Spectrum News on Thursday that it's unclear whether Greenberg has reached "any sort of cooperation agreement, that he is providing information or potentially becoming a witness — or whether he has already provided such information."
"We have no idea yet," Moses said. "You can speculate what you’ve seen on Twitter or reports. It’s an educated guess. But until you see (a plea agreement), you really don’t know."
In all, Greenberg has been accused of 33 crimes, from sex-trafficking involving a minor and identity theft, since he was first indicted nearly a year ago, prompting his resignation as tax collector on June 24.
He had entered not-guilty pleas to all of the charges.
From a later round of allegations filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, Greenberg is accused of swindling $400,000 from his former agency, fraudulently obtaining more than $432,000 in Economic Injury Disaster Loans meant to help small businesses hurt by the pandemic, and bribing an unidentified official with the Small Business Administration.