The sex trafficking scandal surrounding Florida U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz is getting gnarlier by the day, both because of the circus sideshow of supporting characters it brings with it and the good questions it raises about why we, as a country, insist on electing people to our federal government who seem like they could be plausibly involved with sex trafficking.
But that’s neither here nor there! If you’re not familiar, on Tuesday, the New York Times published a bombshell report detailing an investigation into Gaetz’s alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl whom he had given money for flights so that she could travel across state lines with him. Those allegations reportedly surfaced during the course of a larger investigation involving a guy named Joel Greenberg — a former local official in Florida who is currently being investigated by the Justice Department on “…an array of charges, including sex trafficking of a child and financially supporting people in exchange for sex, at least one of whom was an underage girl,” the Times reports.
Apparently, Joel Greenberg has been a busy guy in Florida, and the Orlando Sentinel recently compiled a helpful list of headlines it’s published over the years that together paint a picture of both unfettered, brazen corruption and mind-blowing, ape-brained stupidity. Perhaps the most incredible item on Greenberg’s rap sheet — even wackier than the story about him impersonating a law enforcement officer — is the time he reportedly used $90,000 worth of taxpayer money to build a massive cryptocurrency mining rig in his private office, which immediately overloaded the electrical breakers and then, when he moved it to a different office, caused a power surge that started a fire.
During a 2020 audit of his spending during his time as Seminole County’s tax collector, investigators found that Greenberg had prepaid $65,860 to an entity called “Government Blockchain Systems LLC,” which his office was the sole member of. When questioned about why such an LLC existed in the first place, Greenberg told auditors that he had been creating a new method for his office to accept “cryptocurrency as payments.”
“There does not appear to be a public purpose to create a county-wide platform given that there are several non-government entities that already provide the ability to collect cryptocurrency and convert the payment into U.S. dollars,” the auditors wrote in their report.
According to that same report — which, by the way, also found that Greenberg had used public funds to buy body armor, weapons, ammunition and a drone — damage from the fire that resulted after Greenberg moved his rig to Seminole County’s Lake Mary branch was approximately $6,700, which “…was not covered by insurance due the negligence of the Tax Collector.”
“It cost an additional $1,200 to tear down the server room,” auditors wrote. “The expenses incurred for the server room buildout, fire damage, and server room tear down were approximately $98,000.”
Florida prosecutors are apparently not buying those claims about a new payment system, and on Wednesday filed a second superseding indictment against Greenberg for embezzling $400k to purchase cryptocurrency for himself, wire fraud and bribery. In addition to his first indictment — which included charges of harassment and stalking of a political opponent — and his first superseding indictment — which included one charge of human trafficking, several charges of aggravated identity theft and misuse of driver license info —Greenberg is now facing a combined total of 33 charges.
Although Greenberg resigned his post as tax collector in 2020 one day after federal authorities charged him with his first indictment, he had posted a selfie outside the White House just one year earlier in which he can be seen standing alongside Gaetz. While the exact nature of the relationship between the two men is still murky, Gaetz did publicly congratulate Greenberg on his successful election in 2018, predicting that he would someday make a great congressman.
Gaetz, for his part, has continued to deny the allegations of sex trafficking, insisting instead that he is being targeted by an elaborate extortion scheme.