© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The coat of arms of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) can be seen at its headquarters in Washington, DC, United States, May 10, 2021. REUTERS / Andrew Kelly
By Jan Wolfe and Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A former Florida official at the center of the federal investigation into whether U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz sexually trafficked a minor will cooperate with investigators in a plea deal, showed a court document submitted by prosecutors.
A plea hearing for Joel Greenberg, a former Seminole County, Florida tax collector, is scheduled for Monday in federal court in Orlando, Florida.
The plea deal marks a turning point in the sprawling federal investigation, which rocked Florida politics and trapped Gaetz, 39, one of former President Donald Trump’s most vocal supporters in Congress.
Investigators are looking to determine whether Gaetz had sex with the same 17-year-old Greenberg accused of trafficking, according to reports and a police source who spoke to Reuters.
Gaetz has not been charged with any crime and has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
Greenberg’s attorney, Fritz Scheller, suggested to reporters last month that Greenberg’s cooperation with federal investigators could have implications for Gaetz.
“I’m sure Matt Gaetz doesn’t feel very comfortable today,” Scheller said in April, after a hearing in which prosecutors signaled a plea deal was imminent.
In a column published last month on the Washington Examiner website, Gaetz said he had no plans to resign from Congress.
“There is exactly no credible (or even non-credible) accuser willing to come forward by name and publicly declaring that I have behaved badly towards them,” Gaetz wrote.
Rep. Steve Scalise, House Republican No. 2, said last month the party would take action against Gaetz if the Justice Department formally accused him.
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