LAKE MARY, Fla. – Faced with the possibility of spending decades in prison, Joel Greenberg has entered into plea negotiations with the federal government. The one-time Seminole County Tax Collector is facing a litany of charges and decades in prison, but the investigation has not stopped with him alone.
Citing anonymous sources, the New York Times and CBS News confirm federal authorities have expanded their search into Greenberg’s web of politically connected friends and acquaintances. News 6 has reviewed hundreds of documents handed over through public record requests which reveal who Greenberg was doing business with while he was both tax collector of Seminole County and presumably living above the law.
According to a forensic audit completed after Greenberg left office, the one-time Seminole County Tax Collector used his newly acquired power to reward family, friends and the politically connected with questionable contracts, totaling more than $1 million in wasted taxpayer dollars.
[RELATED: Joel Greenberg Timeline: From rising Republican star to federal charges]
Emails, financial reports, contracts and company records help verify Greenberg’s professional relationships with other Central Florida politicos at the time he held office.
Those same documents also provide a glimpse into Greenberg’s friendship with Congressman Matt Gaetz. Both men are currently under investigation by federal authorities for sex trafficking of a minor Both deny the allegations, and only Greenberg has been charged.
In addition to sex trafficking, Greenberg is facing at least 32 additional federal charges, including stalking a political opponent, making fake IDs, bribing a political official and wire fraud. Federal prosecutors believe Greenberg bilked more than $400,000 from taxpayers to do a number of things like buy himself cryptocurrency and signed Michael Jordan memorabilia.
Last week, Greenberg formally entered into plea negotiations with the federal government. Both sides have until May 15 to figure something out or the case against Greenberg will go to trial, according to a federal court judge.
Greenberg’s attorney Fritz Scheller said he had not yet seen a plea agreement when he met with reporters outside the federal courthouse in Orlando last week, but he will be looking to see if prosecutors include a “cooperation provision” in the deal.
“The reason the cooperation provision is critical in the Middle District of Florida is it is not discretionary,” Scheller said. “If somebody signs a cooperation agreement, they are required to cooperate.”
He later added: “I’m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” after news of plea negotiations broke.
On July 8, Greenberg and a man he would later hire as his Chief Inspector General, Christopher Anderson, headed down to Miami to meet with a newly-elected congressman from the Panhandle, Rep. Matt Gaetz. Financial records obtained by News 6 show Greenberg and Anderson “discussed [his] deputy revenue officer program” with Gaetz. The program was supposed to be a first-of-its-kind law enforcement agency inside the tax collector’s office, but in the end, that dream never quite took off.
The conversation was only disclosed in an expense report to justify the nearly $1,700 shelled out by taxpayers to cover the cost of flights to South Florida and an overnight stay at a five-star resort in Miami, the Four Seasons.
That same weekend Greenberg posted this now highly-circulated photo of himself with Gaetz and Roger Stone, the infamous former campaign advisor to President Donald Trump.
Great catching up with @mattgaetz and @RogerJStoneJr pic.twitter.com/46SjAsiL42— Joel Greenberg (@JoelGreenbergTC) July 9, 2017
According to a federal indictment, around this same time, Greenberg had also allegedly begun breaking the law. From May to November 2017, Greenberg allegedly engaged in commercial sex acts with a minor between 15 and 17 years old.
Federal authorities are now looking into whether or not Gaetz committed a similar crime, in a story first reported by the New York Times. Investigators only began looking into Gaetz, the Times reported, because of the initial investigation into Greenberg.
Gaetz has publicly denied any wrongdoing and instead says the claims are part of an extortion plot to get $25 million from his father.
According to the Times, a former Air Force intelligence officer Bob Kent agreed to make Gaetz’s legal troubles go away if Gaetz’s father, Don Gaetz, gave Kent $25 million. The money, Kent said, was to help rescue an Iranian hostage many presume to be dead, former FBI agent Robert Levinson.
On March 8, 2017, Greenberg signed a 12-month contract with a popular lobbying firm which would cost taxpayers more than $87,000.
The funds were later deemed a complete waste of taxpayer dollars by forensic auditors.
“Florida Tax Collectors pay fees to the Florida Association of Tax Collectors to lobby on their behalf, the auditors wrote in their summary. “There would be no reason, during normal operations, a Florida Tax Collector would need to hire an outside lobbyist.”
That did not stop Greenberg from hiring Central Florida politico and lobbyist Chris Dorworth, a longtime associate of Matt Gaetz.
Even after the lobbying contract ended, Dorworth invited Greenberg and his wife to a fundraising event with former President Donald Trump. “Excited to see you all tomorrow. We have boxes f34 and f35,” Dorworth wrote in the email. “They will feed us all booze and give us a ride in as well as an escort to our luxury boxes.”
Dorworth, a former Florida state legislator, abruptly departed his position at a lobbying firm last week.
Dorworth joined Ballard Partners in 2012 after losing his Florida House of Representatives seat. The upset election deprived Dorworth, a Lake Mary republican, of serving as the next House Speaker.
“The current political climate is nasty, and I told Brian I don’t think its (sic) fair for the recent media storm to take away from their missions,” Dorworth wrote on Twitter last week, presumably referring to the lobbying firm’s president, Brian Ballard.
I always loved working @BallardFirm. Best boss, best coworkers, best clients. The current political environment is nasty, and I told Brian I don’t think it’s fair for the recent media storm to take away from their missions. A classier or more effective group I couldn’t imagine.— Chris Dorworth (@ChrisDorworth) April 9, 2021
Dorworth has not returned any of News 6 repeated requests for comment.
Dorworth served in the Florida legislature alongside Gaetz and has remained close, social media posts suggest. In June 2019, Gaetz, Dorworth and Greenberg posed for a photograph together outside the White House.
@mattgaetz and @ChrisDorworth duckface and all. #WhiteHouse pic.twitter.com/oIAzfXgkCh— Joel Greenberg (@JoelGreenbergTC) June 22, 2019
Citing two unnamed sources, The New York Times reported Dorworth and Gaetz discussed the possibility of putting a third-party candidate on the ballot in 2020 to help Jason Brodeur win the District 9 state senate seat that represents parts of Seminole and Volusia counties.
Gaetz denied any involvement in the Central Florida senate race.
“The allegation by ‘two unnamed sources’ that I had something to do win [sic] an NPA candidate for the state senate in 2020 is total nonsense,” Gaetz wrote on Twitter Friday. “Like so many falsehoods about me, there will never be evidence of this because it didn’t happen.”
Dorworth told the New York Times that he did not recall a conversation with Gaetz about running a third candidate and that “there would be nothing illegal about it if we had,” the newspaper reported.
In reviewing hundreds of public records released by the Seminole County Tax Collector’s Office, it does not appear that Central Florida Dr. Jason Pirozzolo was ever directly contracted by Greenberg. However, it appears one of Pirozzolo’s employees was contracted by the former tax collector for “digital marketing services”, while the young lady and former model was working for Pirozzolo’s medical marijuana organization.
Pirozzolo is a hand surgeon and Gaetz campaign donor who was once appointed by Gov. Ron Desantis to serve on the board of the Orlando Airport Authority. According to reports first published by CBS, Pirozzolo is reportedly under federal investigation over a trip to The Bahamas, one he may have taken with Gaetz.
Multiple anonymous sources familiar with the case told the network that agents are investigating whether or not Pirozzolo paid for travel to the tropical island along with female escorts.
Numerous social media posts show Pirozzolo at both GOP and medical marijuana events. The doctor is also a medical marijuana investor who co-founded the American Medical Marijuana Physicians Association and serves as Chairman of the Board, according to the organization’s website.
Additional social media posts show Gaetz spoke at least one of the AMMPA’s medical marijuana conferences in Miami in 2018.
Pirozzolo, who is also a pilot, has not returned News 6 repeated attempts for comment.
The day after the CBS News story broke, the practice where Pirozzolo works, Orlando Hand Surgery, told patients Pirozzolo would be out indefinitely citing a “family emergency”.
The day after @CBSNews links Orlando doctor Jason Pirozzolo to investigation into Congressman Matt Gaetz, @OrlandoHandSurg tells patients he out indefinitely due to “family emergency”. #news6 pic.twitter.com/LL8zxvEZOV— Mike DeForest (@DeForestNews6) April 10, 2021
Pirozzolo has not been charged, and News 6 has not received any additional records which tie Greenberg and Pirozzolo together in a professional way.
News 6 is continuing to go through public records and will update this article as we learn more about Greenberg’s additional associates.