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Friend of Matt Gates sentenced to 11 years in prison for sex crimes, other counts

Orlando — Former Florida tax collector whose arrest prompted a federal congressman investigation. Matt Gates was found guilty of sex trafficking of minors and other crimes and he was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg has been accused of conspiring to stalk political opponents, commit public corruption, create counterfeit licenses, and file false federal loan claims.

He pleaded guilty to six federal crimes, including identity theft, stalking, wire fraud, and conspiracy to bribe public officials. Prosecutors said he paid at least one of his girls to have sex with him and other men.

“Nothing justifies my actions. My actions are so shameful. I regret what I did,” Greenberg said Thursday in a courtroom in Orlando. Gregory Presnell said before handing him the sentence.

Greenberg also apologized directly to Seminole County residents, his family, and the school teacher who slandered him when educators decided to speak out against him.

Presnell said in his 22 years as a federal judge he had never seen a case like Greenberg’s, nor had he seen “defendants commit so many different kinds of crimes in such a short period of time.” rice field.

Greenberg’s attorneys have asked for leniency, saying his client cooperated with 24 investigations, including eight for sex crimes. Fritz Scheller, a defense attorney, said Greenberg’s cooperation led to four federal indictments against him, and said he believes additional indictments are due within the next month.

Greenberg’s help could help investigate whether his friend Gates paid a 17-year-old girl for sex. Gaetz has denied the allegations and previously said they were part of a blackmail scheme. She has not been indicted against a Republican congressman representing most of the Florida Panhandle.

Greenberg is associated with other Florida politicians and associates. So far, no one has been involved in a sex trafficking investigation.

After the hearing, Scherrer called Greenberg’s ruling valid.

Scherrer said he was shocked that Greenberg’s cooperation had not yet led to further prosecutions and that he had been in contact with federal investigators over the past three months. When asked if he thought others would be charged with sex crimes, defense counsel replied, “I think so.”

“It should be, and I think part of my frustration is having pretty good insight into the evidence in this case,” Scherrer said.

Federal prosecutors are seeking a drastic reduction in Greenberg’s prison sentence, agreeing to reduce it from nine years and three months to 11 years at a court hearing Wednesday.

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Federal Attorney Roger Handberg argued for the high end of the range, and Judge Greenberg said he misused his credit to commit the crime.

Scherrer asked the judge to give only a fraction of the range, arguing that Greenberg had made amends and was no longer the same person who committed the crime.

“Mr. Greenberg was using money and sex to gain access to the political world,” Scherrer said. “He came from a dark place, had a lack of self-esteem, and tried to please himself with gatherings of people.”

The minors in the sex crime cases were mostly adults and advertised as being at least 18 in their escort profiles on Seeking Arrangements, a website that promotes “sugar daddy” relationships, Scherrer said.

Scherrer also asked the judge to take into account Greenberg’s struggle with mental illness, which he was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder at age 7 and panic attacks, depression, and anxiety as an adult. Scherrer said he had bipolar disorder with symptoms of mania when he committed the crime, which affected his judgment and impulse control.

Several documents related to Greenberg’s cooperation have been sealed and out of public view, and prosecutors and defense attorneys say they are underway by federal officials and state investigators in Florida and Washington. It said it was part of an investigation into the matter.

Mike Schneider, Associated Press

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