Ex-tax collector Joel Greenberg’s lawyer questions DOJ for not prosecuting ‘public figures’

Greenberg facing 9 to 11 years in prison, attorney says

A lawyer representing former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg indicated in new court filings his client is facing a potential sentence of nine to 11 years in prison as punishment for child sex trafficking and other federal offenses.

ORLANDO, Fla. – A lawyer representing former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg indicated in new court filings his client is facing a potential sentence of nine to 11 years in prison as punishment for child sex trafficking and other federal offenses.

Criminal defense attorney Fritz Scheller argued in court papers filed late Monday that Greenberg deserves less than the sentence requested by prosecutors, in part because Greenberg provided “significant substantial assistance” to federal investigators in the areas of public corruption, election fraud, wire fraud and sex trafficking.

Scheller noted that the U.S. Department of Justice has not criminally charged some co-conspirators named by Greenberg, including those involved in his sex offense.

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“If the Government is so concerned with general deterrence, then why hasn’t it prosecuted the other individuals, including public figures, who were also involved in Greenberg’s offenses?” Scheller wrote. “The identification of these potential co-conspirators was not only provided by Mr. Greenberg in his numerous proffers but also has been collaborated by other witnesses and records. Unfortunately, at the time of Greenberg’s sentencing, many of these individuals have not been held to account.”

Scheller’s memorandum does not identify any of those public figures, but the attorney has previously said that Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz would not be “feeling very comfortable” about Greenberg’s plea deal.

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Gaetz is not charged with any crimes and has adamantly denied any wrongdoing. His attorneys and spokesperson did not immediately respond to an email from News 6 seeking comment.

“Perhaps the DOJ in Washington is still moving forward on its prosecutions,” Scheller wrote. “Perhaps the DOJ will appoint a special counsel to address those individuals that implicate broader national concerns. Perhaps the DOJ are master strategists far beyond the capabilities of [me]. Or perhaps the DOJ is like Nero fiddling away as Rome burns.”

Read Scheller’s court filing below:

Federal prosecutors filed their own memorandum last week in which they asked the judge to sentence Greenberg to no less than what federal guidelines dictate.

“During the 3-1/2 years when he was the Tax Collector, Joel Micah Greenberg repeatedly used his position to engage in a bold, brazen, and nearly undeterrable crime spree consisting of sex trafficking of a child, illegally producing a false identification document, aggravated identity theft, wire fraud, stalking, and conspiracy to defraud the government,” prosecutors wrote.

The guideline sentence for Greenberg’s child sex trafficking charge ranges from about 22 years to 27 years in prison, according to Scheller.

Read the court filing from prosecutors below:

However, federal prosecutors have requested a reduction of that potential sentence due to Greenberg’s cooperation, which has led to criminal charges against at least four people including a former tax collector office employee and a contractor.

If the judge grants the government’s request, Scheller said the guideline sentence would be reduced to a period of 87 to 108 months.

Scheller is asking the judge to reduce his client’s sentence for child sex trafficking even further, which prosecutors have opposed.

Greenberg also faces an additional, mandatory minimum sentence of two years for aggravated identity theft.

“Although this Court may not have discretion concerning the consecutive 2-year mandatory penalty, its discretion over the rest of Greenberg’s sentence remains, including the amount of reduction that the Defendant receives for his substantial assistance,” Scheller wrote.

According to the defense attorney, Greenberg does not deserve the maximum sentence for having sex with an underage female he met on a “sugar daddy” website because his conduct was different than an offender who knowingly preys on children.

“The minor in question was on the brink of turning 18. She certainly appeared that she was over 18,” Scheller wrote. “Moreover, she had posted an escort profile on the website ‘Seeking Arrangements’ in which she claimed she was over 18 years old.”

Scheller argues that Greenberg’s culpability is mitigated by his mental illness, including a diagnosis of bipolar disorder at the time of his offense.

Greenberg also deserves credit for paying $1.3 million in restitution to the Seminole County government and assisting in other investigations related to the tax collector’s office, his attorney argued.

Disgraced former tax collector Joel Greenberg will pay Seminole County government more than $1.3 million in restitution to cover the county’s losses while he was in office, the county attorney announced Tuesday.

“While these efforts can never excuse Greenberg’s actions, they do demonstrate that Greenberg has not only attempted to make amends but also is on a rehabilitative and redemptive path,” Scheller wrote.

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About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter Mike DeForest has been covering Central Florida news for more than two decades.