The indicted ex-tax collector friend of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) paid for a lawyer for the underage teenager at the heart of sex trafficking charges against him, according to a bombshell WhatsApp chat obtained by Politico.
Politico reported that Joel Greenberg was in a “panic” just days before the federal indictment on 33 different charges including identity theft, financial crimes and sex trafficking.
In a chat with a friend who later discussed the messages with Politico, the former Seminole County tax collector referred to the unidentified young woman as “Vintage 99,” a name with her birth year that she reportedly used online.
“I’m having to pay for vintage 99 to retain [a] lawyer,” Greenberg wrote in the chat, saying federal agents “contacted her and are wanting her to talk,” Politico reported. “She doesn’t want to talk to them,” he added.
Greenberg has been charged and Gaetz is under investigation for alleged sex trafficking involving women, including “Vintage 99,” who was 17 at the time of the targeted activities. She’s now 20. It’s not illegal for Greenberg to pay the lawyer’s fees of a potential witness against him, but it could “raise questions,” Politico noted.
Greenberg discussed his fears in the WhatsApp chat that investigators would trace his payments to women via Venmo, according to Politico, which is apparently what happened. Gaetz also paid money via Venmo to Greenberg, who allegedly forwarded it to women, The Daily Beast reported. The payments were marked for “school” and “tuition.”
Greenberg is reportedly now cooperating with federal authorities and is expected to reach a plea deal.
A Justice Department probe launched during the Trump administration is currently investigating whether Gaetz had sex with the 17-year-old and paid for her and other young women to travel across state lines for sex. Federal investigators are reportedly also looking into whether Gaetz used any federal campaign money to make the alleged payments.
The FBI is also examining Gaetz’s trip to the Bahamas with a group of women that a Florida cannabis entrepreneur funded in late 2018 or early 2019, several sources told The New York Times. Greenberg was reportedly along for the ride.