Joel Greenberg to plead guilty to sex trafficking of a child, 5 other felonies
Joel Greenberg.

Joel Greenberg
The plea deal does not name conspirators.

Former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg has agreed to plead guilty to sex trafficking of a child and five other federal felonies having to do with fraudulent activities in his office, under a proposed deal filed with U.S. District Court in Orlando Friday.

The deal, which will be presented in open court Monday, drops 27 other felony charges against Greenberg and offers the chance of reduced sentences. That is only if he follows through with agreements to cooperate with federal officials in the investigation and prosecution of others. No others were named in the agreement.

Greenberg is at the center of a multipronged federal investigation that involves sex, drugs, prostitutes, including one who was under age 18, theft in office, fraud, stalking, and identity theft. The probe has led to reports of others being pulled into the federal investigation, including Greenberg’s friend and political ally Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach.

The plea deal might drop 27 charges, but several of those remaining are harsh. The document says Greenberg agrees to plead guilty to sex trafficking of a child, which has a mandatory 10-year prison sentence and would brand him as a federal sex offender for the rest of his life.

He also is preparing to plead guilty to production of a false identification document, aggravated identity theft, wire fraud, stalking, and conspiracy. Of those, the wire fraud charge could bring him 20 years in prison, and the production of false identification and conspiracy charges, each carry 15 year sentences.

The deal also calls for him to forfeit to the federal government more than $654,000 in criminally-obtained assets. That includes $222,000 that the plea deal says he diverted from the Seminole Tax Collector’s office into his own accounts holding cryptocurrencies. That’s covered in the wire fraud charge. The other $432,000 involves U.S. Small Business Administration loans the plea deal says he fraudulently obtained. That’s covered in the conspiracy charge.

The filing says Greenberg paid the girl to have sex with others, and gave her “and others” the drug ecstasy.

It also says he paid her at least seven times to have sex with him, over several months of 2017. In late 2017 he did his own background check on her, using his official access to the Florida Driver And Vehicle Information Database, and said he discovered she was under 18. The deal says he had plenty of reason to suspect she was underage all along and he used reckless disregard.

After he was arrested and discovered he was being investigated for sex trafficking of a girl, among other charges, he contacted her and asked her to lie.

“Greenberg was involved in what are sometimes referred to as ‘sugar daddy’ relationships where he paid women for sex, but attempted to disguise the payments as ‘school related’ expenses or other living expenses,” the document states.

It says he used a website to meet women whom he later paid for sex “with him and others.”

He used at least four accounts to pay a total of more than $70,000 for sex. Those accounts included his office American Express account at the Tax Collector’s Office, his personal American Express account, his personal Venmo account, and his personal Fifth Third Bank account.

It also says he conspired with two other people — a woman the document identifies only as “a public official,” and a man identified as “a friend” of his — in the conspiracy to defraud the SBA of small business loans.

Greenberg first came to the attention of federal investigators in 2019. He first became aware of the federal probe in April, 2019, when authorities served him with subpoenas. He was arrested June 23, 2020.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected]


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