ORLANDO, Fla. – An associate of former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg has been sentenced to 15 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to charges stemming from a bribery scheme.
Joseph Ellicott admitted to delivering a $6,000 bribe to Greenberg in 2017 that was allegedly sent from a contractor for the tax collector’s office. That contractor, Michael Shirley, pleaded not guilty to fraud charges last week. Federal prosecutors accused Shirley of paying a kickback to Greenberg in exchange for the consultant being allowed to submit inflated invoices to the tax collector’s office.
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Ellicott, a former Orlando sports radio host known as “Big Joe,” was hired by Greenberg in January 2017 and was paid more than $361,000 to serve as assistant deputy tax collector, records show.
“I failed the hundreds of thousands of taxpayers of Seminole County,” Ellicott said in court before learning his sentence. “All I can do is apologize for my actions and accept responsibility.”
Ellicott allegedly delivered the bribe money on behalf of Michael Shirley, a contractor accused of submitting inflated invoices to Greenberg’s office. Shirley has pleaded not guilty to fraud charges and is awaiting trial. #News6 pic.twitter.com/2qnh2rq0Kw— Mike DeForest (@DeForestNews6) October 11, 2022
Prosecutors originally were seeking a sentence between 27 and 33 months, but the judge gave Ellicott credit for assisting the government on other investigations, as required by his plea agreement.
“It’s my understanding Mr. Ellicott provided substantial cooperation that has been very helpful to the government,” U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Presnell said.
But the judge also acknowledged Ellicott’s actions have hurt the public’s trust in government.
“Mr. Ellicott participated in public official abuse, which really harms every citizen of Seminole County and beyond,” Presnell said. “When you’re facilitating a kickback to a constitutional tax collector, government abuse doesn’t really get worse than that.”
Greenberg pleaded guilty last year to six federal charges including child sex trafficking and aggravated identity theft. As part of a plea deal, Greenberg agreed to cooperate with federal authorities on other, undisclosed criminal investigations.
Greenberg, who faces a mandatory minimum of 12 years in prison, is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 1.
Ellicott also pleaded guilty to illegally selling the prescription drug Adderall to friends. Once he completes his 15-month prison sentence, Ellicott will be placed on supervised release for three years.
Ellicott must also pay $114,747 in restitution to the Seminole County tax collector’s office, the judge ordered.
Greenberg pleaded guilty last year to six federal charges, including child sex trafficking and aggravated identity theft.
Following Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, the judge allowed Ellicott to leave the courtroom and go home, but he must turn himself in to the Federal Bureau of Prisons at a date to be determined later.
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