Joel Greenberg, the former confidant of Representative Matt Gaetz, pleaded guilty on Monday in federal court in Orlando to a range of charges, including sex trafficking a minor, as part of a plea deal that will require him to help in other Justice Department investigations.
“Are you pleading guilty to these charges because you are guilty?” said United States Magistrate Court Judge Leslie Hoffman.
“Yes,” said Mr. Greenberg, who wore a dark blue jumpsuit and white surgical mask and was handcuffed.
Mr. Greenberg admitted in a plea agreement filed on Friday to a range of crimes. The hearing on Monday formalized that agreement, and Mr. Greenberg answered questions from a judge before admitting his guilt.
Mr. Gaetz is under investigation into whether he violated sex trafficking laws by paying the same 17-year-old for sex. On Monday, Mr. Gaetz’s name was not mentioned in court, nor was it referenced in the court documents filed Friday.
Mr. Greenberg is facing over 12 years in prison but it was unclear when he will be sentenced. As part of his plea agreement, he needs to provide substantial help to the Justice Department’s prosecutions of others in exchange for help convincing a judge to give him a more lenient sentence. Defense lawyers typically want to delay the sentencing for as long as possible in order to give their clients the most time to help the government.
Mr. Greenberg, a Republican, was a newcomer to politics when he won a local election in 2016 to become the tax collector in Seminole County, Fla., north of Orlando.
Shortly after taking office, according to court documents, he began committing a range of fraud and other crimes, including using taxpayer money to pay women for sex and buy sports memorabilia.
He was first indicted last June. At the end of last year, Mr. Greenberg began cooperating with the government as he realized that prosecutors had substantial evidence against him and that he could spend decades in prison if he went to trial and lost.
Mr. Greenberg’s lawyer, Fritz Scheller, had told reporters after a court hearing last month that “I am sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today.” But he declined to elaborate.
In response to questions outside the courtroom on Monday about whether Mr. Greenberg will cooperate against Mr. Gaetz, Mr. Scheller provided a slightly more measured response.
“He is bound by it the plea agreement — he will honor it,” Mr. Scheller said.