Gaetz friend asks for more time to cooperate with feds

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and his wife Ginger Luckey walk through the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and his wife Ginger Luckey walk through the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Joel Greenberg, the friend of U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz who pleaded guilty earlier this year to sex trafficking, asked a judge on Tuesday to postpone his sentencing until next year so he can continue cooperating with federal authorities.

Greenberg asked the federal judge in a court filing to move his sentencing date from mid-November to next March.

The extra time will give the former local tax collector from an Orlando suburb more time to sit for interviews with federal investigators, the filing said.

“Indeed, Mr. Greenberg’s ongoing cooperation, which will not be completed prior to his current sentencing date, could have an impact on his final sentence,” according to the court filing, which said the extension was unopposed by federal prosecutors.

Greenberg is facing up to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty last May to six federal crimes, including sex trafficking of a child, identity theft, stalking, wire fraud and conspiracy to bribe a public official.

Greenberg’s plea agreement with prosecutors requires continued cooperation with an ongoing probe into sex trafficking.

Gaetz, a Republican who represents much of the Florida Panhandle, was not mentioned in Greenberg’s plea agreement. But Greenberg’s cooperation could play a role in an ongoing investigation into whether Gaetz paid a 17-year-old girl for sex. Gaetz has denied the allegations and previously said they were part of an extortion plot.

Orlando criminal defense attorney David Hill, who has no connection to the case, said extra time is sometimes needed in federal probes so that investigators have time to chase leads and verify what a cooperating defendant is telling them.

“If this is potentially going to take down a big fish, and the government thinks there is something to it, they want time to get as much information and verify it as well,” Hill said.

Meanwhile, in Pensacola, a man accused of orchestrating the extortion plot linked to Gaetz’s federal sex investigation pleaded not guilty Friday in federal court. The trial of Stephen Alford, 62, is now scheduled for Dec. 6.

Authorities said Alford was part of a scheme to get $25 million from a person identified in court records as “D.G.” In exchange, Alford said he could secure a pardon from then-President Donald Trump for a family member or get the Department of Justice to drop an investigation into the family member, as well as fund the release of a someone identified as “R.L.”

Matt Gaetz’s father is Don Gaetz, a former president of the Florida Senate. Others who approached Don Gaetz have said in news reports that they wanted to free Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who disappeared in Iran more than a decade ago.

An attorney for Alford did not immediately return a voicemail seeking comment. According to court records, Alford has previous fraud convictions, including a 2006 judgment where he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.