Joel Greenberg (politician)

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Joel Greenberg
Joel Greenberg.png
Tax collector of Seminole County, Florida
In office
January 2017 – June 24, 2020
Preceded byRay Valdes
Succeeded byJ.R. Kroll
Personal details
Born (1984-02-04) February 4, 1984 (age 37)
Altamonte Springs, Florida, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)
Abby Greenberg
(m. 2016)
Children2
EducationRollins College (did not graduate)[1]
Criminal information
Criminal statusPleaded guilty & incarcerated while awaiting sentencing[2]
Criminal chargeTheft, stalking, sex trafficking, cryptocurrency fraud, Small Business Administration loan fraud, aggravated identity theft

Joel Micah Greenberg (born February 4, 1984) is an American politician and former tax collector of Seminole County, Florida. In 2020, Greenberg was arrested and charged with federal offenses. He was indicted on 33 criminal counts: theft, stalking, sex trafficking, cryptocurrency fraud, and Small Business Administration loan fraud.[3] On May 17, 2021, he pleaded guilty to six federal charges, including sex trafficking of a minor, as part of a plea deal.[4][2]

Greenberg was formerly a friend, associate, and ally of Republican congressman Matt Gaetz;[5] after being arrested in 2020, Greenberg began to cooperate with federal investigators probing Gaetz and negotiated a plea agreement.[5][6]

Career[edit]

Greenberg was once described as a Republican star in Central Florida politics.[3][7] He was elected as tax collector of Seminole County, Florida, in 2016, running a reportedly self-funded campaign, by defeating incumbent Ray Valdez, who had held the office for 30 years.[7] Greenberg resigned from his duties on June 24, 2020. [8]

Criminal charges[edit]

Greenberg is accused of stealing $400,000 of public funds[9] and sex trafficking.[10] From 2017 the government alleges that he used the state's driver license system to obtain names of minors for "commercial sex acts", also creating fake IDs to facilitate sex trafficking. Some of this money was funneled through a private company he created and ran from government buildings, called Government Blockchain Systems LLC.[11] At one point the $90,000 server room running the cryptocurrency operation overloaded the electricity supply, causing $6,700 in uninsured fire damage.[10] He also bought memorabilia and other items.[7]

Over the course of Greenberg's employment as a tax collector, he was reported to have spent over $1 million on contracts and other purchases. Those contracts included $380,000 for body armor, weapons, and ammunition; and $15,000 for office sprinklers that could be aimed at people outside his office.[12]

During the reelection campaign in 2019, he is also alleged to have created fake Facebook accounts and sent falsified letters making claims of sexual misconduct against an opponent,[7] and impersonated a law enforcement officer in both stopping a woman while driving, and trying to evade a speeding ticket himself.[10]

Federal agents arrested Greenberg at his home on June 23, 2020; he resigned the following day after being released on bail.[10][13] The original June 2020 indictment charged Greenberg with identity theft and stalking. In August 2020, one count of sex trafficking a 17-year-old girl in 2018 was added to the indictment. On February 28, 2021, Greenberg violated his bond conditions by travelling during his curfew hours, reportedly to look for his wife. His bond was revoked on March 3, 2021, and a federal judge denied Greenberg a new bail, ordering him into custody for the remainder of the case. [14] In March 2021, the Justice Department added an additional 21 criminal charges to Greenberg's indictment, including cryptocurrency fraud, SBA loan fraud (allegedly receiving fraudulent Economic Injury Disaster Loans for two defunct corporations), wire fraud, conspiracy to bribe a public official and theft of government property.[13] Greenberg faces a minimum of 12 years imprisonment and a maximum term of life imprisonment.[15]

Plea deal and cooperation[edit]

Greenberg was formerly a friend, associate, and ally of Gaetz; after being arrested in 2020, Greenberg began to cooperate with federal investigators probing Gaetz,[5] who was also implicated in the sex trafficking scandal, although he has not been charged with a crime.[16] In April 2021, Greenberg's attorney announced that his client planned to plead guilty as part of a plea agreement with the government to avoid a possible life sentence.[17] On May 17, 2021, Greenberg pleaded guilty to six federal charges: sex trafficking of a child, production of a false identification document, aggravated identity theft, wire fraud, stalking, and conspiracy. As part of a plea deal, he agreed to cooperate with the U.S. Department of Justice in an ongoing investigation, and will serve a 12 year sentence, the minimum sentence allowed by law. In exchange for his cooperation, prosecutors agreed to drop the remaining charges from the original indictment. The plea agreement documents state that Greenberg paid a minor to have sex with him and other men. He engaged in sex acts with the minor at least seven times while she was a minor. In court papers for his plea deal, Greenberg did not implicate others by name but admitted that he "introduced the minor to other adult men, who engaged in commercial sex acts".[18][19] As part of the plea agreement, Greenberg must register as a sex offender.[4]

Federal judge Gregory Presnell accepted Greenberg's plea agreement on June 3, 2021, and scheduled a sentencing hearing for August 19.[6] Greenberg faces between 12 years and life imprisonment at the sentencing hearing, though the plea agreement allows for the possibility of a departure from minimum sentencing guidelines if Greenberg fully cooperates. [20] On July 6, Greenberg requested, and prosecutors agreed to, a three-month delay in his sentencing so he could further cooperate with the government; presiding federal judge Gregory Presnell agreed to reschedule the sentencing date to November 18.[21][22] By early October, a lawyer for Greenberg had asked for another delay, this time to March 2022.[23] On October 18, prosecutors also asked Presnell for the extension, stating that Greenberg was a "prolific criminal" who had made allegations that "take us to some places we did not anticipate." Presnell approved the extension.[24]

Personal life[edit]

Greenberg's father is Jewish, but he was raised in a Christian family, who attended church. As an adult, Greenberg has identified himself as being Jewish.[25] Greenberg married Abby Greenberg in 2016.[26]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Comas, Martin E. (July 24, 2020). "Seminole, Orange tax collectors make changes to prevent ID theft in the wake of Joel Greenberg's arrest". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved May 3, 2021. Greenberg, who studied at Rollins College but did not earn a degree, had little administrative experience before he became tax collector.
  2. ^ a b Balsamo, Michael; Schneider, Mike (May 17, 2021). "Gaetz associate pleads guilty to sex trafficking charges". The Associated Press. Retrieved May 17, 2021.
  3. ^ a b Philo, Kaila (April 8, 2021). "Joel Greenberg, Friend and Associate of Matt Gaetz, Expected to Plead Guilty". Courthouse News Service. Retrieved May 3, 2021.
  4. ^ a b Chavez, Paola (May 17, 2021). "READ: Plea agreement from former Gaetz associate Joel Greenberg". CNN. Retrieved May 17, 2021.
  5. ^ a b c Weiner, Jeff (April 13, 2021). "Joel Greenberg cooperating with feds since last year in Matt Gaetz sex trafficking probe: report". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved May 3, 2021.
  6. ^ a b Lambe, Jerry (June 3, 2021). "Judge Approves Plea Deal, Sets Sentencing Date for Matt Gaetz Associate in Child Sex Trafficking Case". Law & Crime. Retrieved October 5, 2021.
  7. ^ a b c d DeForest, Mike; Badcock, Merris (April 8, 2021). "Joel Greenberg Timeline: From rising Republican star to federal charges". WKMG. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  8. ^ Comas, Martin E. "Seminole Tax Collector Joel Greenberg resigns day after indictment". orlandosentinel.com. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  9. ^ Mates, Thomas; Badcock, Merris (March 31, 2021). "Former Seminole County tax collector accused of stealing $400,000 in taxpayer money". Click Orlando. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  10. ^ a b c d Shepherd, Katie. "Ex-GOP official Joel Greenberg flaunted ties to Matt Gaetz. Then he was charged with child sex trafficking". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  11. ^ O'Connell, Oliver (April 8, 2021). "The bizarre story behind how Matt Gaetz's tax collector friend fits into sex trafficking investigation". The Independent. New York. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  12. ^ Schneider, Mike (April 16, 2021). "Matt Gaetz pal Joel Greenberg was a lightning rod for controversy even before arrest". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  13. ^ a b Weiner, Jeff; Comas, Martin E. (March 31, 2021). "New indictment: Joel Greenberg used tax collector funds to buy himself cryptocurrency, Michael Jordan merch". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved May 3, 2021.
  14. ^ "Ex-Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg has bond revoked, to remain in custody". WESH. March 3, 2021.
  15. ^ Comas, Martin E. "How long will Joel Greenberg spend in prison? Several factors complicate sentencing". orlandosentinel.com.
  16. ^ Sollenberger, Roger; Pagliery, Jose (April 8, 2021). "Gaetz Paid Accused Sex Trafficker, Who Then Venmo'd Teen". The Daily Beast. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  17. ^ "Matt Gaetz Associate Joel Greenberg Pleads Guilty to Six Federal Charges, Including Child Sex Trafficking". Daily Newsbrief.
  18. ^ Schmidt, Michael S. (May 14, 2021). "Former Gaetz Confidant Agrees to Plead Guilty and Cooperate". The New York Times. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  19. ^ Smith, David; Pengelly, Martin (May 14, 2021). "Matt Gaetz scandal deepens as associate admits paying 17-year-old for sex". The Guardian. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  20. ^ Badcock, Emilee Speck, Merris (May 14, 2021). "Joel Greenberg admits to paying teen for sex, introducing her to other men, documents show". WKMG.
  21. ^ Sarnoff, Marisa (July 6, 2021). "Prosecutors Agree to Delay Sentencing for Matt Gaetz Wingman Joel Greenberg: He's Been Busy 'Cooperating with the Government'". Law & Crime. Retrieved October 5, 2021.
  22. ^ Anderson, Curt (July 7, 2021). "Judge grants sentence delay for cooperating Gaetz associate". AP News. Retrieved October 5, 2021.
  23. ^ Reid, Paula (October 5, 2021). "Gaetz associate asks to delay sentencing, continues to cooperate with federal investigation". CNN. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  24. ^ Shortell, David (October 18, 2021). "Gaetz ally Joel Greenberg is giving investigators new information, prosecutors say". CNN. Retrieved October 18, 2021.
  25. ^ Pinsky, Mark I. (March 31, 2021). "Gaetz crony Joel Greenberg is only Jewish 'as a prop' say his critics". Forward. Retrieved September 8, 2021.
  26. ^ "Meet Joel M. Greenberg". Seminole County Tax Collector. June 26, 2020. Archived from the original on June 26, 2020. Retrieved May 18, 2021.