Their relationship is at the heart of the allegations against Gaetz, a fierce ally of Donald Trump who denies having sex with a 17-year-old and prostitutes. Together, the IRS and Congressman shared a life in the fast lane that contradicts the image of trust that most elected officials take care to maintain.
The only political drama in Florida has taken one odd turn after another in the week since news of the Gaetz investigation first broke. It’s a story marked by a complicated extortion allegation involving Iran and Israel, alleged sex crimes, a tangential cameo from a popular conservative cartoonist and even a porn star.
“You can’t make up this story, it’s so crazy,” said David Bear, a lawyer for a political rival in Greenberg that the now former Seminole County tax collector is accused of falsely calling a pedophile there. is two years old.
“At the end of the day, it’s about abuse of power and how the Republican Party has lost its way with guys like this,” Bear said. “As one of the few remaining Never Trump Republicans, nothing could make me happier than seeing Matt Gaetz and his ilk get taken down. They are the embodiment of Trumpism.
About thirty descendants of wealthy families, Gaetz and Greenberg were elected to their respective offices during the first Trump wave that swept through Florida in 2016 and have become close friends due to their common interest in brash populist politics, the cryptocurrencies and attractive young women.
The Gaetz-Greenberg relationship was not a peer to peer, according to mutual friends, who say the tax collector admired the congressman. A former state legislator, Gaetz was a regular Fox member who had the president’s ear. Greenberg introduced him to a handful of young women he met on SeekingArrangement, a dating site that matches attractive women with so-called sugar daddies, according to friends. Greenberg regularly trolled the site for dates.
“Joel idolized Matt,” said a mutual friend, who declined to be named. “And since they both loved beautiful women and Joel seemed to have unlimited access to them, it was definitely an added incentive for Matt to stay. Plus, Joel is one of the funniest people you can hang out with. “
The two have shared more than one girlfriend, according to interviews with eight friends and associates who know the two men. Gaetz described Greenberg as a “winger” to some acquaintance and even promoted him as a potential candidate for Congress. Now, some Greenberg suspects may be cooperating with prosecutors to build a case against Gaetz.
Greenberg’s attorney declined to comment.
Within a year of being elected, according to the indictment, Greenberg had sex with a minor and, using his special access to a federal identification system as a tax collector, ” has obtained, disclosed, transferred and used personal information about persons … including persons with whom [he] was engaged in “sugar daddy” relationships. “
Greenberg also created fake driver’s licenses with his face but the personal information of others – including a man with a Puerto Rican driver’s license – that he used “to aid his efforts to engage in sexual acts. commercial ”, indicates the indictment. In Florida, people can hand over expired or out-of-state licenses to tax collectors who have the authority to issue new identification. Old identity cards are supposed to be destroyed.
Gaetz has not been charged with any felony or cited in an indictment, but admitted he was under a federal investigation into whether he had an abusive relationship with a 17-year-old .
“I never paid for sex,” Gaetz said via text. “I haven’t slept with a seventeen-year-old since I was seventeen.”
At one point, Gaetz and Greenberg reportedly made an unexpected after-hours appearance in surveillance video from one of the tax collector’s offices where the two were spotted in the area where ID cards are kept. The incident was reported to federal authorities by a source.
“I was never involved in anything Greenberg did with ID cards,” Gaetz told POLITICO. “I once temporarily lost my wallet and asked if I could go to his office and get a legal replacement. This is what tax collectors do. Later I found my wallet and did not need this service. “
Although a congressman from Northwest Florida, Gaetz had a busy travel and staff schedule that often brought him through the Orlando area where Greenberg lived. He’s had frequent television hits from the Fox 35 studio in Orlando, a friend noted, and he sometimes doubles with Greenberg and women in his twenties. Gaetz, 38, is now engaged and calls himself monogamous. Greenberg is 34 years old and married.
The friendship between the two began to crumble and burn when Greenberg became mired in a host of corruption scandals detailed by the hometown of Orlando Sentinel, and then by a federal grand jury, which fired the first indictment against him in June 2020 regarding a pedophilia smear against one of his GOP challengers. Greenberg resigned on June 24, the day after his arrest, two months before the primary.
Upon his arrest, federal agents found him in possession of other people’s identification, which led to a second alternative indictment on August 19 relating to identity theft and the teenager. minor. Gaetz has come under scrutiny at this point in the investigation, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
Three friends of Greenberg – including one who testified before the federal grand jury investigation into Greenberg – told POLITICO they personally overheard him bragging about his relationship in 2017 with a 17-year-old girl who they say , had continued to work in pornography.
She did not send multiple messages back to POLITICO on her cell phone and social media accounts.
Greenberg’s friends say he met the woman on SeekingArrangement. Gaetz was unwilling to discuss the details of the case, but denies ever being on the website or having sex with the victim or a minor.
In a Washington Examiner editorial on Monday, Gaetz tacitly admitted to having “paid the expenses of an adult girlfriend” on occasion and wrote that “there is exactly no credible (or even non-credible) accuser ready. to be manifested by name and by state. the public record that I behaved badly towards them.
Gaetz claims he and his father – former Florida Senate Speaker Don Gaetz – were extorted in a complex scheme to pay to free a former US federal agent who went missing in Iran. Agent Bob Levinson has been presumed dead for years. Don Gaetz confirmed to POLITICO he was carrying a wire under FBI supervision to catch the alleged extortionists, but the operation was foiled when the New York Times reported the allegations against his son last week.
Then it got stranger. Days before the New York Times article was published, the media director of the Israeli consulate in New York, Jake Novak, texted Gaetz advocate and “Dilbert” cartoonist Scott Adams regarding the investigation and the Levinson’s alleged conspiracy, a Conservative publication reported on Friday.
Novak could not be reached by POLITICO and Adams declined to comment.
In his editorial, Matt Gaetz presented himself as a victim of a smear campaign and wrote that he was “certain that some crooks who are supporters of Merrick Garland’s Justice Department want to pervert the truth and the law to sue me.” “.
But Garland was not sworn in until March 11. The Gaetz investigation began under former Trump attorney general Bill Barr after Greenberg allegedly wrote the anonymous letter claiming to be a student accusing his music teacher Brian Beute of pedophilia.
Greenberg also created a fake Facebook account that falsely accused the teacher of having sex with a child and created a Twitter account in Beute’s name designed to pass him off as a white supremacist, according to the act of ‘charge.
Beute’s attorney Bear pushed local, state and ultimately federal investigators to open an investigation that ultimately found Greenberg’s fingerprints on the fake letters and followed the creation of the fake social media accounts on a computer from Greenberg’s house.
Less than a week after his initial arrest and resignation, federal prosecutors say, Greenberg launched a new fraudulent scheme on Covid relief funds. This charge was added to his third and (so far) final replacement indictment which was returned on March 30. The indictment also alleged that Greenberg created a company called Government Blockchain Systems LLC to use his elected office to “embezzle and embezzle over $ 400,000” in public money to personally profit from the use of crypto. -currency like Bitcoin.
Additionally, Greenberg is accused of abusing tax money to buy Bitcoin mining machines and then sell them for personal profit on Amazon. The indictment alleges that Greenberg spent some of his proceeds on autographed memorabilia of basketball legends Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
During his tenure, Greenberg publicly promoted Bitcoin as a way for citizens to pay property taxes, which was also an attractive idea for Gaetz, who is a member of the Congressional Blockchain Caucus.
“Sure, Matt and Joel have a taste for pretty women like any red-blooded American man, but their relationship was personal and political beyond that,” a friend said. “They’re both MAGA, both in cryptocurrency, and they’re both really smart.”
One of Florida’s most prominent trial lawyers and Democratic donors, John Morgan, testified to Greenberg’s intelligence, but said, “He’s on the line between genius and madman. This is the guy. Morgan said he had known Greenberg since he was little and had met Gaetz and Greenberg once or twice for drinks, but he was neither a witness nor a suspect of any criminal activity.
Trump’s longtime associate Roger Stone, who denounced the Gaetz investigation, also came into contact with the two men while they were in town near his home in Fort Lauderdale in 2017. Greenberg posted a Twitter photo of the meeting.
“He’s really eccentric to say the least,” Stone said. “It was the only office of the state tax collector where he gave employees a badge and a gun.”
Stone said he only met Greenberg about three times, and on one occasion every man had an attractive young date. “They were definitely over 18.”