New York Times: Matt Gaetz associate has been cooperating with Justice Department since last year

(CNN) — Joel Greenberg, a central figure in the ongoing investigation into Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, has been providing information to investigators since last year about Gaetz’s activities, among other topics, two people briefed on the matter told The New York Times.

Greenberg started speaking with investigators when he realized it was his only path to leniency in the face of considerable evidence against him, the people told the Times.

A source familiar with the case confirmed to CNN later Tuesday that Greenberg has been providing investigators with information since that time, including information about encounters he had with women who were given cash or gifts in exchange for sex. Greenberg has met several times with investigators.

His cooperation with the Justice Department could put additional legal pressure on Gaetz as investigators work to determine whether he broke sex-trafficking or prostitution laws himself.

Federal investigators are examining allegations that Gaetz had sex with an underage girl who was 17 at the time and with women who were provided drugs and money in violation of sex-trafficking and prostitution laws. Federal investigators are also seeking to determine whether Gaetz was provided with travel and women in exchange for political favors as part of a broader probe, people familiar with the investigation tell CNN.

Gaetz has continued to deny all allegations against him and has not been charged with any crimes.

The Florida Republican was on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to cast votes, but he did not comment on The New York Times report when asked by CNN.

A spokesperson for Gaetz, Harlan Hill, told CNN in a statement Tuesday evening that Gaetz “has never paid for sex” and suggested that Greenberg is “trying to ensnare innocent people in his troubles.”

CNN has reached out to Greenberg’s attorney for comment.

Greenberg’s willingness to cooperate came into focus earlier this month when his attorney and prosecutors said in court that he is likely to strike a plea deal. A federal prosecutor and Greenberg’s attorney told a judge the deal was not finalized but there is an expectation that it could be resolved within weeks.

The former tax commissioner in Seminole County, Florida, and a friend of Gaetz’s, Greenberg had faced decades in prison on 33 federal counts that ranged from identity theft to sex trafficking of a minor.

“We believe this case will be a plea,” said Assistant US Attorney Roger Handberg. Greenberg’s attorney, Fritz Scheller, requested a plea date by May 15. If a plea is not reached, they could move to a trial in July.

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Scheller declined to say if his client would be willing to cooperate as part of the potential plea deal and would not divulge if Greenberg had already met with prosecutors to describe what he knows about Gaetz.

He added, however, that his client is “uniquely situated.”

“I’m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” Scheller said.

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