A former Florida tax collector and close associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) is facing a 45-page federal indictment alleging wire fraud, sex trafficking, and a litany of other offenses connected to the alleged abuse of his office and other crimes. That former tax collector, Joel Greenberg, is suspected of being a possible cooperating witness against Gaetz, Politico and others have recently reported, as Gaetz faces a reported inquiry into his own sexual behavior.
Greenberg’s attorney has refused to comment publicly on whether or not his client is dishing dirt on Gaetz, and Gaetz has denied any and all wrongdoing. With the degree and extent of Greenberg’s cooperation — if any — against Gaetz officially unknown, Law&Crime dug through police reports and court records naming Greenberg to shed light on the underlying accusations against him and to more fully illustrate the extent of his legal jeopardy. Aside from his federal criminal accusations, which resulted in two separate arrests, Greenberg has also been let off the hook by local authorities in a number of instances. A woman called police to say a man later identified as Greenberg pulled her over using a badge and a flashing light for an alleged traffic violation, even though he isn’t a cop; and his own wife once called 911 on him during an argument.
A third superseding indictment on file with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division currently accuses Greenberg of 33 separate criminal counts. He was initially arrested on June 23, 2020 on an original indictment alleging only two counts on June 17, 2020; he was hit with additional counts — six in total — on July 15, 2020. A second superseding indictment filed August 19, 2020, brought the tally to 12 counts; the third and current indictment was handed up on March 30, 2021.
The charging documents do not directly name Gaetz, but they do allege a wide-ranging scheme against Greenberg.
“As set out herein, JOEL MICAH 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, unlawful use of a means of identification of another person, illegally producing identification and false identification documents, aggravated identity theft, wire fraud, and money laundering,” the latest charging document begins. “JOEL MICAH GREENBERG also stalked a political opponent. After his arrest in this case, and while he was on conditions of release, JOEL MICAH GREENBERG conspired with an employee of the Small Business Administration (SBA) and another individual to submit false claims for Economic Injury Disaster Loans and to bribe the SBA employee.”
Among the accusations is that Greenberg used the Florida Driver and Vehicle Information Database, known as DAVID, to create fake driver’s licenses using his own “photograph but the personal information of [his] victims.” Though the documents say Florida tax collectors’ offices do handle driver’s license transactions, they allege that Greenberg “obtained, disclosed, transferred, and used personal information of individuals whose personal information was in a motor vehicle record, including individuals with whom [Greenberg] was engaged in ‘sugar daddy’ relationships.” These fake IDs were used “to facilitate” Greenberg’s “efforts to engage in commercial sex acts,” including the sex trafficking of a child between 14 and 18 years old, the documents allege.
The documents also say Greenberg used his access to the driver’s license system to illegally create at least one replacement driver’s license.
They go on to allege that Greenberg cooked up a scheme “to embezzle and divert over $400,000 to benefit himself personally.” It involved using tax collector’s office funds “to purchase cryptocurrency for himself,” to “operate a business that sold cryptocurrency mining machines to benefit himself,” and to actually “mine cryptocurrency to benefit himself.” The mining machines were sold through Amazon.com, the documents allege.
The blockchain part of the alleged scheme involved a company called Government Blockchain Systems, LLC, which Greenberg is said to have set up with one other person, and a series of banks and other organizations — two of which are cryptocurrency exchanges known in the indictment only as “Entity A” and “Entity B.”
Several Government Blockchain Systems, LLC documents on file with the Florida Secretary of States Office, as reviewed by Law&Crime, contain Greenberg’s name, his signature, and the name and address of his official office.
Federal prosecutors say Greenberg “falsely represent[ed] in the memo lines of checks the purpose of the transactions” related to this scheme in order to try to hide their “true personal nature.” They also say Greenberg used some of the money “to personally benefit himself, including by obtaining a $100,000 cashier’s check that [he] deposited into his personal account” at an area credit union. Some of the transactions ran through Greenberg’s government office-issued credit card, prosecutors believe. They also think he tried to cover his tracks by using “funds obtained from a family member” once he realized the Secret Service was investigating him.
One transaction involved in the scheme totaled $65,860 in government funds; another involved $68,087.46, the documents say.
The documents further allege that Greenberg used government money to buy autographed Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan memorabilia.
Greenberg is also accused of stalking a “political opponent” in a manner “reasonably expected to cause substantial emotional distress.” The victim is said to have worked at a school. Greenberg is alleged to have sent letters claiming to be a “very concerned student” (in the letter’s own words) who “had information that the school employee had engaged in sexual misconduct with a particular student” (those are prosecutor’s words to summarize the letter’s contents). Redacted copies of the letter appear in the court record:
Greenberg is also accused of setting up a Twitter account using the school employee’s name and photograph. It attempted to characterize the school employee as “a segregationist . . . in favor of white supremacy.” Greenberg had no consent or authority to set up the account, and the school employee had no clue it was happening, the documents allege.
“I’m running for office to keep #seminolecounty white and segregated,” one post on the account read. “It’s time we take back out [sic] country!”
“I’m proud of America!! Red WHITE AND blue. WHITE,” read another.
“This is great. Just don’t become a Jew like your kids have,” another anti-Semitic post on the account said.
A fake Facebook account also alleged sexual misconduct against the teacher. One claimed that the teacher raped a “male student” who went to seek the teacher’s “counsel on the student’s sexuality.” The post claimed the teacher admitted “his own sinful homosexual thoughts and they would together pray the gay away.”
“This evolved into several sexual interactions,” the post continued, “even one involving a video of the sexual encounter. This must be made known. He is a sham.”
Prosecutors say it was all a lie. “GREENBERG then and there well knew the allegations were false,” the criminal indictment against the former tax collector states.
The documents further say Greenberg filed on June 28, 2020 — several days after his June 23, 2020 release from custody following his initial arrest — documents to reinstate a closed business Greenberg formerly owned. Greenberg is accused of using that company, DG3 Network, Inc., and another company, Greenberg Media, to submit a fictitious claim with the Small Business Administration for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) connected to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The applications are alleged to have included lies about the businesses’ revenues, number of employees, and that the businesses were even active in the first place. A friend allegedly connected Greenberg to an SBA employee who Greenberg bribed to manually approve the fraudulent loans, the documents state.
A full accounting of the charges Greenberg faces is below.
Count 1 – Sex Trafficking of a Child – November 2017 – victim between 14 and 18 years old.
Count 2 – Driver’s Privacy Protection Act Violations – September 4, 2017 – Minor Victim.
Count 3 – Driver’s Privacy Protection Act Violations – November 18, 2017 – Victim R.Z.
Count 4 – Unlawful Use of Means of Identification of Another Person – September 4, 2017 – Minor Victim.
Count 5 – Production of an Identification Document – November 11, 2015 – Victim R.Z.
Count 6 – Aggravated Identity Theft – November 11, 2015 – Victim R.Z.
Count 7 – Production of Identification and False Identification Documents – sometime between November 11, 2017 and June 23, 2020 – Victim R.Z. (with Greenberg’s photograph).
Count 8 – Production of Identification and False Identification Documents – sometime between September 21, 2018 and June 23, 2020 – Puerto Rico driver’s license of victim E.J.C.C. (with Greenberg’s photograph).
Count 9 – Aggravated Identity Theft – sometime between November 11, 2017 and June 23, 2020 – Victim R.Z.
Count 10 – Aggravated Identity Theft – sometime between September 21, 2018 and June 23, 2020 – Puerto Rico driver’s license of victim E.J.C.C.
Count 11 – Wire Fraud – November 8, 2017 – $1,500 credit card charge using Tax Collector’s Office American Express card.
Count 12 – Wire Fraud – December 4, 2017 – involving an email to “an employee at Entity A.”
Count 13 – Wire Fraud – December 12, 2018 – involving an email to “an employee at Entity A.”
Count 14 – Wire Fraud – December 20, 2028 – a $200,000 wire transfer from a Tax Collector’s Office account to Entity A’s account.
Count 15 – Wire Fraud – September 20, 2019 – a $5,000 transfer from Government Blockchain Systems, LLC to Greenberg’s personal account.
Count 16 – Wire Fraud – September 24, 2019 – another $5,000 transfer from Government Blockchain Systems, LLC to Greenberg’s personal account.
Count 17 – Wire Fraud – October 15, 2019 – another $5,000 transfer from Government Blockchain Systems, LLC to Greenberg’s personal account.
Count 18 – Wire Fraud – October 17, 2019 – another $5,000 transfer from Government Blockchain Systems, LLC to Greenberg’s personal account.
Count 19 – Wire Fraud – November 2, 2019 – a wire transfer “to establish a seller account at Amazon.”
Count 20 – Wire Fraud – January 17, 2020 – a “$599.95 credit card charge to purchase an autographed Michael Jordon photograph using an American Express card of the Tax Collector’s Office.”
Count 21 – Illegal Monetary Transactions – December 29, 2017 – transfer of $100,000 to Greenberg’s personal account.
Count 22 – Illegal Monetary Transactions – December 29, 2019 – transfer of $10,000 in Bitcoin to a cryptocurrency wallet belonging to Greenberg.
Count 23 – Illegal Monetary Transactions – December 24, 2018 – transfer of $100,000 in Bitcoin “in the name of the Tax Collector’s Office” to a “cryptocurrency wallet controlled by” Greenberg.
Count 24 – Stalking – October 10, 2019 to November 15, 2019 – involving the political opponent/teacher.
Count 25 – Unlawful Use of Means of Identification of Another Person – November 2, 2019 – involving the fake Twitter account bearing the political opponent/teacher’s name.
Count 26 – Conspiracy to Bribe a Public Official, Submission of a False Claim, Theft of Government Property, and Wire Fraud – Jan. 2017 – SBA loans.
Count 27 – Bribery of a Public Official – July 17, 2020 – for a $3,000 payment Greenberg allegedly made to an SBA employee.
Count 28 – Submission of a False Claim – EIDL application for Joel Greenberg.
Count 29 – Submission of a False Claim – EIDL application for DG3 Network.
Count 30 – Submission of a False Claim – EIDL application for Greenberg Media.
Count 31 – Theft of Government Property – $132,900 in EIDL proceeds for Joel Greenberg.
Count 32 – Theft of Government Property – $149,900 in EIDL proceeds for DG3 Network.
Count 33 – Theft of Government Property – $149,900 in EIDL proceeds for Greenberg Media.
A series of records released to Law&Crime by the Seminole County, Fla. Sheriff’s Office detail various incidents of police contact with Greenberg.
On December 4, 2017, a woman called 911 to say she’d been followed and “pulled over” by someone — who eventually turned out to be Greenberg — driving a black SUV bearing a white flashing light on its dashboard. Greenberg wore a badge around his neck and was dressed in a tactical-style vest. He eventually approached the woman and berated her for “cutting him off” and driving “like a bat out of hell.” The woman responded that Greenberg “scared the hell” out of her and that she’d “never seen a police vehicle with white lights.”
“Oh, well, this is my personal vehicle,” Greenberg reportedly responded.
Authorities later caught up with him at home after using neighborhood cameras to find his license plate number. Greenberg said his wife and infant were “repeatedly disturbed” by speeding vehicles on a neighboring street and that he had decided to deal with the matter on his own. Police set up a traffic patrol to deal with the matter.
In a subsequent letter, a chief prosecutor said Greenberg hadn’t violated the state’s criminal law by impersonating an officer but that his actions were “inappropriate” and could have been used to “exert undue power and influence.”
“I will give Mr. Greenberg the benefit of the doubt and assume that his intentions were pure,” wrote Chief Assistant State Attorney Stacey Straub Salmons. But she also warned that “[a]nother person encountering Mr. Greenberg under these same circumstances may not be so gracious, and could feel it necessary to take a defensive posture. Such as situation could lead to harmful, if not potentially disastrous, results.”
On October 26, 2020, an individual called 911 to report that Greenberg confronted him in a library parking lot and encouraged his wife to beat another candidate for the tax collector. Greenberg is said to have followed the caller; Greenberg asked him, “do you know who I am?” A report was taken to record the incident; no charges were filed.
On November 14, 2020, Greenberg’s wife called 911 and went to a neighbor’s house. There, she said Greenberg was trying to accuse her of striking him during an argument and that he had threatened to call the police himself on her. The wife asked a sergeant and a deputy to review their home’s security video to confirm that she had done nothing wrong. They did. No charges were filed.
On March 3, 2020, deputies went to pick Greenberg up on a warrant from the U.S. Marshall’s Service. During a phone call, Greenberg said he would surrender himself, police documents indicate; however, he did not do so.
“Joel continued to negotiate via phone,” the report continues. “During the negotiations, Joel made suicidal comments stating at various times that he would take pills, utilize firearms, and that he had improvised explosive devices. Joel also said he had hidden several items in his anal cavity.”
Greenberg eventually threw a bag of medicine out his front door before going back inside.
Some of what occurred next is blacked out of the report.
“After several hours of negotiation, Joel exited his residence, and was placed in handcuffs,” the report said. He was eventually brought before a federal judge.
Federal court records indicate Greenberg had violated the conditions of his release.
On November 23, 2020, Greenberg called the police to report that he’d sent Bitcoin totaling $123,280 to a “digital wallet” and that someone transferred the Bitcoins “to another digital wallet without his permission” about 10 minutes later. The case was referred to a financial crimes task force, the police records indicate.
Greenberg’s Twitter account contains several images showing him in Gaetz’s company — and one showing him with the recently pardoned political operative and Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone.
Hearings in Greenberg’s federal cases are scheduled for Thursday and Friday.
Read his latest criminal indictment below:
[image via Seminole County, Fla. Sheriff’s Office Mugshot]
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