Federal prosecutors have indicted Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg for allegedly using mail and electronic communications, including social media, to stalk someone and for unlawful use of a means of identification of another person.
The U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida announced the indictment Tuesday morning against Greenberg, the controversial county officer who is seeking reelection.
The indictment alleges that Greenberg created aliases and sent letters, email, and social media account postings to accuse a school employee of having sex with a student.
The indictment also alleges Greenberg used fake accounts to distribute allegations that the person was a segregationist in favor of white supremacy. The materials were sent from a nameless “very concerned student” and “a very concerned teacher,” which were fictitious, and were, in fact Greenberg, the indictment charges.
“Joel Micah Greenberg, with the intent to harass and intimidate, did knowingly use the mail, an interactive computer service, an electronic communication service, an electronic communication system of interstate commerce, and a facility of interstate commerce to engage in a course of conduct that caused, attempted to cause, and would be reasonably expected to cause substantial emotional distress to a person, that is, the school employee,” the indictment reads.
If convicted on both counts, Greenberg faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison.
The school employee was not named in the indictment.
The Orlando Sentinel reported Tuesday it is one of Greenberg’s election opponents, Brian Beute, who is facing Greenberg in the August 18 Republican primary. Beute told the Orlando Sentinel he was referring all questions to federal prosecutors. He has not responded to a Florida Politics request for comment.
Greenberg appeared in U.S. District Court in Orlando Tuesday morning to hear the charges against him and was released on his own recognizance. He is to be arraigned on July 1.
He and his defense attorney Vincent Citro of Orlando were not immediately available Tuesday to respond to Florida Politics’ inquiries.
The cited incidents occurred in 2019.
Greenberg faces two Republicans in the August 18 primary, Beute and J.R. Kroll. The winner would face Democrat Lynn Moira Dictor in the November election. All of them have called for restoring integrity, ethics, and dignity to the office.
Greenberg, the scion of a family that owns a chain of dentistry offices throughout Central Florida, has made himself a lightning rod for controversy throughout his first term. His actions, statements, and social media postings have been called xenophobic and misogynist. At one point he sought to arm himself and his top staff in the office, but was later advised that was not permissible. In one incident, he was alleged to have falsely passed himself off as a law enforcement officer when he stopped a motorist on the road. His opponents have alleged that Greenberg has steered his office’s contracts and staff positions to friends and favored contractors.
Among recipients of Greenberg’s office’s contracts: the law office of Republican Rep. Anthony Sabatini of Lake County, a fellow diehard conservative. Sabatini stated his office received $7,500 for legal research on tax collector office matters.
Kroll on Tuesday tried to keep his focus on the workings of the office itself, not on Greenberg’s outside issues.
“I feel terrible for the family of the teacher and anyone else involved in the center of the controversy. I have made it a point in my campaign to not start mudslinging and spreading false allegations. I am hoping that the remainder of this election can maintain the integrity Seminole County deserves,” Kroll said in a written statement.
A spokesman for his office said Tuesday that “the Seminole County Tax Collector offices are fully operational and serving the citizens of Seminole County. As is always the case, day-to-day operations are being overseen by our Deputy Tax Collector Cynthia Torres and Chief Operating Officer Paula Prevatt, both of whom have worked at the office for more than 15 years. “