REUTERS / Jonathan Ernst
- A potential witness in the Matt Gaetz sex trafficking probe pleaded guilty on Wednesday.
- Joe Ellicott pleaded to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and drug charges in an unrelated case.
- Ellicott and the former Florida official Joel Greenberg are both cooperating in the Gaetz probe.
Joe Ellicott, an associate of the former Florida tax official Joel Greenberg, pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud and drug-related charges on Wednesday.
He is the second potential witness in the wide-ranging sex-trafficking investigation into Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz to strike a formal plea deal. Greenberg also pleaded guilty last year to six felonies including sex-trafficking, stalking, identity theft, wire fraud, and conspiracy.
Like Greenberg, Ellicott had been cooperating with prosecutors in the Gaetz probe for months before formally pleading guilty in an unrelated investigation. His plea deal requires him to “cooperate fully with the United States in the investigation and prosecution of other people,” according to court documents.
Politico reported that Ellicott’s lawyer has previously said those people include Gaetz but that Ellicott is not closely associated with Gaetz, a point Gaetz has also emphasized.
Last month, The Daily Beast reported that Ellicott was with Greenberg when he informed Gaetz in a 2017 phone call that a woman the Florida congressman had had sex with was a minor at the time.
“Immediately I called the congressman and warned him to stay clear of this person and informed him she was underage,” Greenberg wrote in a letter that was sent to the GOP strategist Roger Stone as part of his effort to secure a pardon from then President Donald Trump. He added Gaetz was “equally shocked and disturbed by this revelation” and that “there was no further contact with this individual until after her 18th birthday.”
Greenberg recently requested another delay in his sentencing as he continues working with federal prosecutors.
No charges have been brought against Gaetz, but several recent developments indicate the investigation is heating up. Among other things, Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend testified before a federal grand jury earlier this month. NBC News reported that the ex, whose name Insider is withholding to protect her privacy, has been talking to prosecutors for months and was granted immunity in exchange for her testimony.
NBC also reported that prosecutors are investigating Gaetz for three separate crimes: if he sex-trafficked the 17-year-old; if he violated the Mann Act, which prohibits the transportation of “any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose” across state lines; and if he obstructed justice.
With respect to the obstruction probe, investigators are said to be scrutinizing a three-way call after the investigation started between Gaetz, his ex, and another woman who was cooperating with federal authorities and who was reportedly recording the phone call. NBC reported that authorities suspect Gaetz of obstructing justice during that conversation; he’s denied the allegation.
In addition to denying any wrongdoing, Gaetz has also said that the Justice Department’s investigation into him is part of a multimillion dollar extortion plot against his family.
“After nearly a year of false rumors, not a shred of evidence has implicated Congressman Gaetz in wrongdoing,” his chief of staff told Insider in a recent statement. “We remain focused on our work representing Floridians.”