Entertainment

Best friend of Matt Gaetz’s wingman pleads guilty to paying bribes


The best friend of U.S. Rep Matt Gaetz‘s wingman pleaded guilty on Monday to bribing a tax official and selling drugs in a plea deal that could grant him immunity as he cooperates with federal investigators building a sex trafficking case against the Florida congressman. 

Joseph Ellicott, the long-time best friend of corrupt Florida tax official Joel Greenberg – who pleaded guilty to sex trafficking charges last May, knew about the 17-year-old girl who was trafficked by Greenberg’s group, The Daily Beast reported.   

Ellicott, Greenberg and an ex-girlfriend of Gaetz are all cooperating with federal investigators in exchange for leniency as investigators are looking into whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old in 2019 and paid for her to travel with him. 

Ellicott, known as ‘Big Joe’ on CBS Sports Radio Orland, was one of Greenberg’s many friends benefitting from no-show jobs the tax official set up through the Central Florida tax agency, court documents revealed. 

The shock jock was accused of fraud for agreeing to ‘pay bribes and kickbacks’ to a public official, delivering a $6,000 cash bribe from an unnamed tax office contractor to Greenberg in 2017. 

In exchange for the bribe, Greenberg allowed the contractor to inflate invoices for work at his tax office and pocket the difference, according to the court documents. 

Joel Greenberg

Joseph Ellicott, left, an Orlando shock jock, pleaded guilty to bribery and drug selling charges and agreed to cooperate with investigators regarding his best friend Joel Greenberg, who pleaded guilty to sex trafficking of a minor in May

US. Rep. Matt Gaetz, of Florida, has been accused of being a part of Greenberg's sex trafficking ring. The congressman has not been charged with any crime and denies the allegations

US. Rep. Matt Gaetz, of Florida, has been accused of being a part of Greenberg’s sex trafficking ring. The congressman has not been charged with any crime and denies the allegations 

Gaetz came to attention of investigators through his friend Joel Greenberg, who tweeted this photo of himself (left) with Gaetz (center) at the White House

Gaetz came to attention of investigators through his friend Joel Greenberg, who tweeted this photo of himself (left) with Gaetz (center) at the White House

Ellicott was also charged with illegally selling $5,000 worth of Adderall, the ADHD prescription medication, to a single client for two years. 

As part of his plea agreement, Ellicott is requited to fully cooperate with federal investigator and could possibly testify before a grand jury against Greenberg and anyone else involved in the sex trafficking case. 

In exchange, Ellicott will not be formally charged by a grand jury and has a shot of significantly reducing his sentence as both charges each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years. He will also be granted immunity from ‘any other federal offenses known to the U.S. Attorney’s Office’ relating to the two charges. 

Joe Zwick, an attorney for Ellicott, told the Daily Beast that his client was fully cooperating with federal investigators about the sex trafficking case that Gaetz is allegedly involved in. 

‘Obviously they value his continued cooperation, as he does as well. We are going to set off sentencing as long as we can, and do everything we can to reduce his time.’ 

Although Gaetz has been accused of participating in the sex trafficking ring, he has not been charged with any crime yet and dismissed investigations into his allegedly involvement  as a ‘witch hunt.’ 

‘After nearly a year of false rumors, not a shred of evidence has implicated Congressman Gaetz in wrongdoing. We remain focused on our work representing Floridians,’ his office said in a recent statement. 

As part of his plea agreement, Ellicott is requited to fully cooperate with federal investigator and could possibly testify before a grand jury against Greenberg and anyone else involved in the sex trafficking case

As part of his plea agreement, Ellicott is requited to fully cooperate with federal investigator and could possibly testify before a grand jury against Greenberg and anyone else involved in the sex trafficking case

This past May, Greenberg, a long-time associate of Gaetz, pleaded guilty to charges including sex-trafficking of a minor and entered a plea deal that saw 27 of his 33 charges against him dropped in exchange for his cooperation and testimony. 

As part of his plea agreement, Greenberg admitted that he recruited women for commercial sex acts and paid them more than $70,000 from 2016 to 2018, including at least one underage girl he paid to have sex with him and others. The plea agreement says he insisted the women take the drug MDMA with him.

Greenberg also admitted to introducing a minor he trafficked to other adult men who engaged in sex acts with the minor in Greenberg’s presence, court papers showed. 

The papers did not identify the other adult men. Gaetz was not mentioned in the plea agreement or during the court hearing. 

Greenberg’s lawyer, Fritz Scheller, indicated his client would cooperate if prosecutors sought information from him about Gaetz, telling reporters: ‘He will honor his plea agreement.’

Greenberg allegedly confessed in a letter to Donald Trump ally Roger Stone that he and Gaetz paid for sex with the 17-year-old girl in a bid to get a pardon from the then-President, the Daily Beast reported.

‘On more than one occasion, [the 17-year-old] was involved in sexual activities with several of the other girls, the congressman from Florida’s 1st Congressional District and myself,’ Greenberg reportedly wrote in the letter. 

He also reportedly revealed that Gaetz paid prostitute Megan Zalonka after a cocaine-fueled party at a Trump fundraiser. 

Greenberg has been held in custody since March and faces at least 12 years in jail.

Megan Zalonka (right) is pictured with Gaetz, who is said to have snorted cocaine and had sex with her

Megan Zalonka (right) is pictured with Gaetz, who is said to have snorted cocaine and had sex with her

Roger Stone, Matt Gaetz and Joel Greenberg pictured in a selfie together in 2017

Roger Stone, Matt Gaetz and Joel Greenberg pictured in a selfie together in 2017

According to NBC News, his ex, whose name was withheld to protect her privacy, has been in talks with federal prosecutors for months to avoid prosecution for obstruction of justice in return for testifying in an investigation into whether he paid for sex with a 17-year-old.   

She was reported to have appeared before a grand jury on January 12 

NBC also reported that prosecutors were investigating three separate crimes: Sex trafficking; violating the Mann Act, which bans taking prostitutes across state lines; and obstructing justice.  

Investigators are reportedly examining a phone call between Gaetz, his ex and another woman – who recorded the call and was cooperating with federal investigators – to establish whether it amounted to obstructing justice.

Previous reporting revealed that investigators believe Gaetz’s former girlfriend is key to unraveling transaction records that allegedly reveal payments for sex.

She is a former Capitol Hill staffer who has known the congressman since 2017.   

In April last year, Politico reported that the former girlfriend had told friends she was worried that a 17-year-old who is key to the federal government’s sex-crimes investigation tried to get her to incriminate him on a recorded call. 

Her attorney, Tim Jansen, declined to comment on the case. 



Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button