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Gaetz probe started with an associate awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking, stalking charges

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A sex trafficking probe into Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., began with an investigation into an associate of his who’s awaiting trial on trafficking, stalking and identity fraud charges.

The associate, Joel Micah Greenberg — whom Gaetz once suggested should run for Congress in their home state of Florida — was hit with additional charges Wednesday stemming from his three years as an elected county tax official.

“Greenberg used his position as Seminole County Tax Collector to engage in, and facilitate, the commission of federal offenses, including sex trafficking of a child, illegally obtaining personal information from a motor vehicle record … illegally producing identification and false identification documents, aggravated identity theft, wire fraud and money laundering,” federal prosecutors said in the newly unsealed third superseding indictment.

A call to Greenberg’s attorney has not been returned. Greenberg has pleaded not guilty to the trafficking, stalking and identity fraud charges, and is scheduled to be arraigned on the wire fraud and money laundering charges next week.

Law enforcement officials confirmed to NBC News that the investigation into Gaetz, who has not been charged, originated from the investigation into Greenberg, which has taken numerous turns since he was arrested in June of last year for allegedly sliming a rival tax collector candidate.

Gaetz denied any wrongdoing in a statement on Tuesday night and again during an interview with Fox News. “No part of the allegations against me are true,” he said.

Greenberg and Gaetz, both Republicans, were elected to their jobs in 2016. The extent of their relationship is unclear. The Orlando Sentinel said Greenberg had described Gaetz to former employees as a close friend who would often visit his house.

Gaetz posted a picture of himself on Facebook at dinner with Greenberg and former Trump adviser Roger Stone in 2017, and referred to Greenberg as a “2nd Amendment champion.”

In 2019, Greenberg tweeted a picture of himself and Gaetz in front of the White House. Greenberg tweeted a picture of his young daughter with Gaetz and then-President Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump that same day.

Gaetz donated $1,000 to Greenberg’s re-election effort in June of last year, and said in 2017 that he’d be a great candidate for Congress because he’d taken the tax collector’s office “by storm.”

“He’s been a disruptor,” Gaetz told WFLA radio.

Greenberg’s tenure was turbulent. There were calls for him to resign from his $150,000-a-year post in 2018 after a derogatory tweet about Muslims, and a Muslim employee later settled a discrimination suit against him.

He was accused of misusing his authority by pulling over a woman for speeding and flashing his tax collector badge as if he were a police officer in December of 2017. Prosecutors said he did not break any laws in the incident, but described his actions as inappropriate.

A month after that incident, he tried unsuccessfully to use his position to get out of a speeding ticket himself in an exchange that was captured by a police body camera.

He also authorized some of his staffers to carry guns — a directive that was later overruled by then-state Attorney General Pam Bondi.

A 2019 Orlando Sentinel investigation showed his office had doled out over $3 million in contracts to business partners, associates, family friends and at least a half-dozen people who had attended his wedding. An audit later showed he’d misspent over $5 million in taxpayer money during his three years in office, including $384,000 on body armor, weapons, ammunition, and a drone with thermal imaging capabilities, according to Spectrum News 13. He also created a security force that was later dissolved, the audit said.

He made headlines again in April of last year, when he used Twitter to urge people to rebel against pandemic-related restrictions. “Time to disobey the orders,” he wrote. He said a month later that he’d contracted the virus.

He resigned in June of last year after he was arrested for allegedly using phony identities to smear a teacher who was challenging his re-election bid.

Greenberg “caused a Twitter account to be set up using the name and photograph of the school employee,” and then “caused postings to be made using that account that represented that the school employee was a segregationist and in favor of white supremacy,” prosecutors said in court filings.

He also posed online as teacher and a student at the school where the person worked to accuse him of having engaged in “sexual misconduct with a student,” and sent letters in to the school as well, prosecutors said.

When he was arrested, investigators said they found several fake IDs that he’d created using his job’s access to the state motor vehicle database. Prosecutors said the married father of two also used the database to look up information on women he was “involved in ‘sugar daddy’ relationships with.”

Greenberg also used that information to produce phony driver’s licenses for himself and a girl who was over 14 but under 18. Prosecutors say that’s the girl he “did knowingly … recruit, entice, obtain, maintain, patronize and solicit” between May 2017 to November 2017. His attorney at time, Vincent Citro, told the Sentinel, “We absolutely deny the allegations.”

The new charges unsealed Wednesday include allegations that he embezzled over $400,000 from the Tax Collector’s office “to benefit himself personally.”

The indictment also charges that Greenberg used funds from the office to buy personal items for himself, including “autographed Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant memorabilia.”

Greenberg had been out on bond after his arrest, but was ordered locked up on March 3, for violating the terms of his curfew, court records show. The Sentinel reported he’d driven to his mother-in-law’s condo looking for his wife. A call to Greenberg’s attorney was not returned.

Greenberg has pleaded not guilty to the previous indictments and is currently scheduled to stand trial in federal court in Orlando in June. He is scheduled to be arraigned on the additional charges on April 9.



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He FINALLY gets it! Rejoiner Andrew Adonis launches bitter attack on EU 'crisis'

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BREXIT critic and vehement Rejoiner Lord Andrew Adonis has admitted the EU is in “crisis”.

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Biden, auto executives and chip makers meet in bid to solve crippling shortages

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Around 20 chief executives and other leaders in the auto, semiconductor and tech industries are meeting with White House officials on Monday in a virtual summit aimed at addressing a growing shortage of critical microchips.

Attendees include General Motors CEO Mary Barra, Ford CEO Jim Farley and Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares, along with Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger and representatives from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, Samsung, HP and other tech firms.

“Trying to address supply chains on a crisis-by-crisis basis creates critical national security vulnerabilities,” White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who is attending the summit, said in a statement. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese are also expected to join the video call.

The auto industry has been particularly hard hit by the crisis, which has compounded vehicle shortages caused by last year’s pandemic factory shutdowns. General Motors and Ford alone have warned that they could take a collective $4.5 billion hit to their earnings this year.

Consumers are also feeling the heat. Vehicle prices that were already on the rise have surged even more sharply as automakers and dealers cut back on incentives. Finding the car or truck of choice can be a challenge with dealer inventories down by about 1 million vehicles, compared to what is normal this time of year, said J.D. Power market research firm.

President Joe Biden, who is also expected to briefly attend the meeting, is pushing for Congress to invest billions of dollars in the industry. In February, he set into motion a 100-day review of supply chain issues covering semiconductors, as well as advanced batteries, pharmaceuticals and other critical goods.

Biden wants to “to hear directly from companies about the impacts and what would help the most,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday at a press conference. The summit is not intended to elicit any announcement or decision, Psaki said, noting that the intention is for the president to be “part of the discussion on how to surmount the problem.”

Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure proposal would set aside $50 billion for the semiconductor industry, with an emphasis on expanding U.S. manufacturing of chips that, today, largely come from places like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China.

Tax credits would “help (semiconductor) companies offset the cost of creating new lines within existing facilities or reallocating current production to meet evolving needs,” said John Bozzella, CEO of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a trade group representing both Detroit’s Big Three and most of the foreign-owned automakers operating in the U.S.

Since the beginning of the year, more and more manufacturers have been impacted by the crisis. Virtually every automaker worldwide has had to trim production and, in many cases, temporarily idle some of their plants.

GM on Monday began a two-week shutdown at its Spring Hill, Tennessee, plant. The closure of another facility in Lansing, Michigan, will be extended through April 26.

Ford plants in Chicago, Flat Rock, Michigan and Kansas City are also closed this week, impacting production of some of the automaker’s most profitable products, including the F-150 pickup.

Global auto revenues are likely to fall more than $60 billion this year, according to AlixPartners research company. During the first quarter alone, manufacturers around the world will lose about 1.4 million vehicles in production, the research firm forecast. Manufacturers hope to make up some of that by increasing output later in the year, and AlixPartners believes the industry will cut losses to around 811,000 vehicles for all of 2020. Ford, for example, advised union employees it will cancel its normal summer shutdown this year.

With the president planning to devote billions from the American Jobs Plan to chip production, industry officials have already made some suggestions as to what they would like.

AAI’s Bozella said last week that some of the money should “be used to build new capacity that will support the auto industry and mitigate the risks to the automotive supply chain evidenced by the current chip shortage.”

But how soon the crisis can be addressed is far from certain. Chip plants are costly and challenging to set up. They have to meet clean room standards in line with the pharmaceutical industry. So, experts warn, the shortages are likely to continue for months, and possibly into 2022.

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Keir Starmer 'doomed to defeat' – Owen Jones issues damning assessment of Labour crisis

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LABOUR is facing a leadership crisis with many of its MPs believing the party is doomed to failure with Sir Keir Starmer at the helm, according to leading leftwing commentator Owen Jones.

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