SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg was indicted in federal court Tuesday on charges of stalking and unlawful use of means to identify another person in an attempt to upset a fellow candidate, according to court records filed in the Middle District of Florida.
Greenberg is accused of spreading false information about a political opponent who worked at a Seminole County school and attempting to cause “substantial emotional distress,” documents show.
According to the indictment, the elected official set up fake social media accounts claiming to be a “very concerned teacher” at the victim’s school where they worked. Through social media and in letters sent to the victim’s employer Greenberg attempted to spread false information about his political opponent, according to the Department of Justice.
That included accusing the teacher of having a sexual relationship with a student even though Greenberg knew that wasn’t true, records show.
He also set up a fake Twitter account posing as the school employee and began making posts that implied the victim was a segregationist and in favor of white supremacy, according to the DOJ.
Authorities said the online stalking took place from Oct. 10, 2019 to Nov. 15, 2019.
“Mr. Greenberg’s arrest this morning came as a surprise to all of us in the office,” said Brian Bieber, the attorney representing the Seminole County Tax Collector’s Office.
Bieber told News 6 Gov. Ron Desantis could make a decision on Greenberg’s next steps in office.
“We expect to hear from the governor on what the proper leadership role will be in the very near future,” said Bieber. “It’s up to the governor. We do expect changes to be made in light of the pending indictment, and we expect to have information on that in the very near future,” said Beiber.
There are three other candidates running for Seminole County Tax Collector in 2020 against Greenberg: Brian Beute (R), Dani Mora Day (NPA), Lynn Moira Dictor (D) and J.R. Kroll (R).
Beute’s attorney, David Bear, confirmed to News 6 that Beute was the target of the actions Greenberg is accused of committing.
Bear said his client and his client’s family have been “living under the trepidation of what the next step in this scheme against them would be.”
“The perpetrator weaponized the most heinous false allegation possible, knowing that simply making it public would ruin Brian’s career and life,” Bear said. “Brian and his family are relieved and grateful that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has fought to bring the perpetrator of this nightmare to justice.”
Beute is a veteran educator, according to his campaign website.
Greenberg, 35, has been the tax collector in Seminole County since January 2017 and is no stranger to controversy.
Early in his post, Greenberg trespassed a Seminole County commissioner and in 2018 came under fire for sharing an anti-Muslim Facebook post. Greenberg’s encounter with a Lake Mary police officer also made headlines in 2018 when body camera video showed he tried to ask for a pass during a traffic stop.
Greenberg was indicted by a federal grand jury on June 17. If convicted, he faces a minimum 10 years in federal prison.
The elected official went before a federal judge Tuesday after his arrest. The judge granted Greenberg a conditional release. His next court date is July 1.
As part of the conditions for his release, Greenberg must not travel outside the Middle District of Florida.
News 6 reached out to Greenberg’s attorney for comment and have not heard back.