ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - A federal judge on Monday agreed to delay once again the sentencing of a former Florida tax collector, whose arrest led to a probe of U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, so that he can continue cooperating with federal prosecutors.
Former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg had been scheduled for sentencing next month, but U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell said in an order that postponing the sentencing "is in the interest of justice." The sentencing date had already been pushed back from last fall.
U,S. Attorney Roger Handberg said in court papers that prosecutors supported the postponement "because it would allow the United States to further advance aspects of pending investigations."
Greenberg is facing up to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty last year to six federal crimes, including sex trafficking of a child, identity theft, stalking, wire fraud and conspiracy to bribe a public official.
Greenberg’s cooperation could play a role in an ongoing investigation into Gaetz, who was accused of paying a 17-year-old girl for sex. Gaetz has denied the allegations and previously said they were part of an extortion plot. Gaetz, a Republican, represents a large part of the Florida Panhandle.
The judge ordered a status report from prosecutors and defense attorneys in Greenberg’s case by mid-May and said it could be filed under seal, or out of the public’s eyes. Prosecutors had asked that the status report be kept under seal to protect sensitive information about ongoing investigations.
Releasing the information could cause those being investigated "to flee, destroy evidence, disclose facts that could jeopardize ongoing criminal investigations, and cause witnesses named in the status report to be subject to possible harassment or retaliation from individuals who are the subjects of the investigations or who have an interest therein," Handberg said in a court filing.