Turns out Gaetz's amigo, the Seminole County tax collector, Joel Greenberg, ratted him out to the Feds a year ago. As part of a plea bargain to get himself a reduced sentence. He's been giving the FBI all the lurid blow-by-blows of his and Gaetz's "encounters with women who were given cash or gifts in exchange for sex... The Justice Department," wrote Michael Schmidt and Katie Benner, "is investigating the involvement of the men with multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments and whether the men had sex with a 17-year-old in violation of sex trafficking statutes, people familiar with the inquiry have said."
They also reported that "Greenberg began speaking with investigators once he realized that the government had overwhelming evidence against him and that his only path to leniency lay in cooperation... He has met several times with investigators to try to establish his trustworthiness, though the range of criminal charges against him-- including fraud-- could undermine his credibility as a witness. Greenberg faces dozens of other counts including sex trafficking of a minor, stalking a political rival and corruption. He was first indicted in June. The Justice Department inquiry drew national attention in recent weeks when investigators’ focus on Gaetz, a high-profile supporter of President Donald J. Trump who knew Greenberg through Republican political circles in Florida, came to light."
Speculation about Greenberg’s cooperation began mounting last week, after his lawyer and a federal prosecutor both said in court that he was likely to plead guilty in the coming weeks. “I’m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” Fritz Scheller, Greenberg’s lawyer, told reporters afterward.
The United States attorney’s office for the Middle District of Florida is leading the investigation, which is examining not only whether Greenberg, Gaetz and others broke sex trafficking laws but also whether Gaetz paid for women over the age of 18 to travel with him to places like the Bahamas.
...Cooperators are expected to be fully forthcoming about their own and others’ criminality. If prosecutors conclude that they have lied, cooperating witnesses are likely to receive no deal and could even increase their own culpability. Those who cooperate earlier in investigations typically receive the best deals from the government because their help is seen as more critical to developing leverage against other defendants.
Greenberg faces a mandatory minimum of at least 12 years in prison: 10 years on the sex trafficking count and two on a charge of identity theft.
He is the only person who has been publicly charged in the investigation. F.B.I. agents are said to have questioned several women who had encounters with the men.
Prosecutors have portrayed Greenberg in court papers as undertaking a variety of criminal schemes, including some after he was initially charged in June. A judge sent him to jail in March for violating the terms of his bail. Those issues could undermine his credibility as a witness.
At the same time, Greenberg potentially has a deep level of knowledge that could significantly help the government.
The investigation of Gaetz could be particularly challenging for the government because he has signaled that he is determined to fight any charges, some jurors could be sympathetic to him because of his relationship with Mr. Trump, and he has hired two high-profile lawyers to defend him.
So far the only Republican Congress member publicly calling for Gaetz to resign is Adam Kinzinger. In fact, Kevin McCarthy is allowing him to stay on the Judiciary Committee, which oversees the FBI, the organization investigating him-- the reason why Ted Lieu has been calling for Gaetz to step down from that committee for weeks.
Earlier today, Florida media was abuzz about "a clear money trail connecting a 'ghost candidate' in a Central Florida state senate race last November with two other South Florida shill candidates who were subjects of a Local 10 News investigation uncovered last fall. The scheme to plant that Central Florida candidate has now been linked to Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, according to a New York Times report detailing a federal investigation into sex trafficking allegations.
The alleged planted candidate in Central Florida’s District 9 State Senate race is Jestine Iannotti, whose financial support from a Political Action Committee shows identical patterns to that of two shill candidates: Alex Rodríguez , who ran in Miami Senate District 37, and Celso Alfonso, who ran in District 39.
Rodriguez has since been criminally charged, as has resigned Florida Senator Frank Artiles, both with campaign finance crime.
Bogus campaign records for both shill candidates were retrieved from Artiles’ home in a raid last month.
Florida Division of Elections campaign finance database shows clear financial connections between them and Iannotti, the third shill candidate now tied to Rep. Gaetz by the New York Times.
It starts with two political action committees that were opened the very same day, On Oct. 2; Our Florida PAC, backing South Florida candidates Rodríguez and Alfonso, and The Truth PAC for Central Florida candidate, Iannotti.
The next day, both PACs reported their one and only contribution: an untraceable Atlanta company Proclivity that would suddenly change in the records to the also untraceable Denver company, Grow United.
Two days after that, on Oct. 5, both PACs make their one and only expenditure: the combined half-million dollars to a printer company called Advance Impression.
The resulting campaign flyers looked identical in graphics, but for the three candidates’ names, making the no-party candidates appealing to democratic voters that they were meant to confuse.
The printer is located in Clermont, but the owners are from Miami; the mother and stepfather of a Republican strategist connected to both PACs, both of which have since been disabled.
Gaetz is allegedly connected to the Central Florida shill scheme, according to the New York Times.
But it’s that dark money, not the scheme, that makes a shill illegal, as the arrests of former Senator Artiles and shill Rodríguez show so far.