‘Uniquely situated:’ Ex-Seminole Tax Collector Joel Greenberg likely to take plea deal, attorney says

Greenberg waived his appearance at arraignment on Friday

ORLANDO, Fla. – The case against Joel Greenberg went before a federal judge on Thursday for a status hearing on the 33 charges he faces. Greenberg was not present in court.

Greenberg’s attorney, Fritz Scheller, announced during the hearing that the former Seminole County Tax Collector would likely take a plea sometime before the trial, but added that the deal has not yet been finalized.

The defense also said that they hope to have an agreement by May 15, but if a deal is not reached by then they will go to trial.

The trial was also pushed back to July, rather than the original June date, to accommodate for the possibility that a deal cannot be reached. Scheller did not give details of what a possible agreement might look like.

“If I get a plea agreement in this case, it’s not something I’m going to sign right away I have to go over it with my client and there’s always some pushback in negotiation,” he said, speaking outside the courthouse following the hearing.

The investigation into Greenberg was recently tied to another Florida Republican, Rep. Matt Gaetz. The New York Times reported the investigation into Greenberg led to another probe of Gaetz surrounding accusations he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old.

Gaetz has denied the accusations and said it is all part of a plot to extort money out of his family and smear his name.

Scheller was asked whether the possible involvement of Gaetz in the investigation gave his client an advantage in plea negotiations.

“(If) Mr. Greenberg accepts a plea, or plea agreement, that we want ... it will show his sense of remorse — which he does have — a sense of acceptance of responsibility. No. 2, I think he’s uniquely situated,” Scheller said.

When asked whether the congressman has anything to worry about following news of this possible plea agreement, Scheller said, ”I’m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today.”

He later added “When I said, ‘Matt Gaetz would be worried,’ I mean... let me tell you what I’m basing that on. I’m not revealing attorney-client privilege — I want to clarify that — but we’ve seen the number of stories, and the emphasis in the last few days, is on the Matt Gaetz, Joel Greenberg relationship right? So, I mean, (it) wouldn’t be obvious to assume that he would be concerned, you know, some.”

Greenberg resigned as tax collector in June 2020, following his initial arrest on federal stalking charges after investigators said he made false posts online in an effort to smear a political opponent.


The Seminole County Republican was later hit with more charges including unlawful use of means to identify another person, production of identification and false identification documents, aggravated identity theft, sex trafficking of a child and violating the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act.

Most recently, Greenberg received a third indictment accusing him of embezzling more than $400,000 from the tax collectors office — using some of the money of his cryptocurrency side business — and filing fraudulent Economic Injury Disaster Relief Loans, EIDLs, through the Small Business Administration, records show. Those loans were created to help struggling businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Prior to his most recent indictment, an independent audit of the tax collector’s office under the leadership of Greenberg also found gross misuses of taxpayer money, including the purchases of sprinkler system to remotely spray petitioners, as well as tactical gear and weapons.

Greenberg has been in jail since he was arrested in Jupiter on a bond violation in March. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him.

Greenberg was due in court for an arraignment on Friday, but documents filed Wednesday show he waived his appearance.

His attorney said that, at this time, Greenberg does not have a statement to make about the charges against him to the people who elected him to office in 2016.

“Not because he doesn’t want to comment or make a statement. It’s because I have directed him not to do so. OK, that may be, that may happen at a later date,” Scheller said.

About the Authors:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com. He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.

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