Ex-tax collector Joel Greenberg to pay Seminole County $1.3 million

Seminole County officials seek criminal investigation into others, plan civil actions

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – 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.

The county will now be asking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to launch criminal investigations into others who may have defrauded Seminole taxpayers while also preparing lawsuits against those undisclosed individuals and entities to collect additional restitution.

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The restitution announcement comes about two weeks before a federal judge is scheduled to sentence Greenberg on six federal charges including child sex trafficking, aggravated identity theft and stalking.

“None of us wished we were in this situation and thank God we are out of it,” Seminole County Commissioner Lee Constantine said just before the board approved the restitution agreement.

Greenberg, who served as tax collector from 2017 until he was arrested in 2020, is facing a mandatory minimum of 12 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison when he is sentenced December 1.

As part of a plea agreement, Greenberg has provided substantial assistance to federal authorities on other criminal investigations that led to the arrests and prosecutions of at least four people including former tax collector employee Joseph Ellicott and former contractor Michael Shirley.

Ellicott was recently sentenced to 15 months in prison for his role in a bribery scheme. Shirley, who is accused of taking part in the same bribery scheme, has pleaded not guilty to charges.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has indicated others may also face criminal prosecution because of Greenberg’s assistance.

That cooperation has prompted prosecutors to formally ask the judge for a reduction in Greenberg’s sentence.

Greenberg will pay Seminole County government $1,359,000 in restitution, according to Seminole County Attorney A. Bryant Applegate.

The restitution will cover the county’s financial losses from Greenberg’s misuse of credit cards, a questionable real estate deal involving the tax collector’s office, and a blockchain operation

Greenberg launched using county funds, Applegate said.

Following discussions with the U.S. Attorney’s Office last week, Applegate said he will seek a criminal investigation into others who may have defrauded the county.

“I’ve decided to turn over all our files related to other individuals and entities to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement,” Applegate told county commissioners. “I’m requesting that it begin an investigation into the files to determine, along with the state attorney’s office, if any of the files warrant criminal proceedings against any other individuals or entities.”

Applegate said the county would also seek restitution in civil court from those unnamed individuals.

“It’s been a long road, and the journey is not over,” said Applegate.

Greenberg’s attorney, Fritz Scheller, praised the Seminole County Attorney for his work on the restitution agreement.

“Through the long and at times difficult process of resolving this matter, I have been impressed by the work of [Applegate]. He has demonstrated great resolve on behalf of the citizens of Seminole County,” Scheller told News 6. “I have also been impressed by the efforts of Joel Greenberg to make amends for his wrongdoing through the payment of restitution and his cooperation with federal and state authorities.”


About the Author:

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