‘Betrayed your trust:’ Joel Greenberg sentenced to 11 years in prison for child sex trafficking, fraud

Ex-Seminole tax collector tells constituents, ‘I let you down’

ORLANDO, Fla. – Former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg was sentenced to 11 years in prison after facing a judge Thursday morning for several federal charges, including child sex trafficking and aggravated identity theft.

“Nothing I say today can justify my actions. My conduct was so shameful,” Greenberg said in court, after nearly two years in prison awaiting his final sentencing.

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U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell delivered the sentencing, which covered crimes Greenberg committed while acting as tax collector of Seminole County that included having sex with a 17-year-old girl he met through a “sugar daddy” website, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and stalking and falsely accusing a teacher, Brian Beute, of having an inappropriate relationship with a student.

“Mr. Beute, I’m so sorry. To the minor, I apologize. To the people of Seminole County, I let you down and betrayed your trust,” Greenberg said.

Greenberg, whose family did not appear in court, was also told he faces 10 years of probation and will have to register as a sex offender.

Federal prosecutors said Greenberg used his position as tax collector “to engage in a bold, brazen, and nearly undeterrable crime spree.”

“When you have a tax collector stealing the money he collects, it’s truly outrageous,” Presnell said in court Thursday. “The criminal conduct does not really get more serious than this.”

While the judge was appalled by the litany of crimes committed by Greenberg, he was particularly upset at the former tax collector’s stalking involving Beute.

“The stalking to me is perhaps the most egregious,” Presnell said. “That’s just downright evil.”

Beute said he doesn’t just want to just be a victim — he wants to do something about it.

“I saw both sides truly cooperating (in court today) ... that was my greatest observation today and that gives me hope that this isn’t over and that the federal government will insist internally on ending this kind of provocateur behavior that was extended and adopted by Joel and an unindicted co-conspirator in my case,” he said in a post-sentencing news briefing.

He added he doesn’t know Greenberg but did note he was singled out in the former tax collector’s apology.

“I accepted. I’ve accepted a long time ago. I don’t characterize Joel as an evil person. I’m not convinced, personally, that this was Joel’s idea,” Beute said.

Greenberg’s attorney, Fritz Scheller, said he was ultimately satisfied with Presnell’s sentencing.

“When I inherited the case, I think he was looking at somewhere around 30 years so it all became about mitigation,” Scheller said in a news briefing following the sentencing.

During a pre-sentence hearing Wednesday, Greenberg’s attorney argued that his client deserves a more lenient sentence than the recommended guideline, in part because Greenberg has provided extensive assistance to federal authorities on other criminal investigations.

More than 18 months after former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg began cooperating with federal prosecutors as part of a plea agreement, a judge is scheduled to sentence Greenberg on six criminal charges including child sex trafficking.

Presnell indicated the federal guideline sentence may not adequately punish Greenberg for his extensive and unrelated crimes, including stalking a political rival, defrauding the Small Business Administration in a COVID-19 relief scheme, defrauding Seminole County by running a personal cryptocurrency business run out of the tax collector’s office, and manufacturing fake driver’s licenses.

“This is an exceptional case,” Presnell said. “(The federal sentencing guideline) just doesn’t work.”

The government will be seeking a guideline prison sentence of 111-132 months, prosecutors said. That recommended sentence includes credit for Greenberg’s assistance on other federal investigations as required by his plea deal.

Scheller unsuccessfully argued Wednesday that the guideline sentence should be reduced further due to his client’s cooperation.

“It is clear his cooperation has been fruitful,” Scheller said.

Greenberg has provided prosecutors with information about 24 people who committed crimes, including some “public figures,” according to Scheller.

An associate of former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg has been sentenced after pleading guilty to charges stemming from a bribery scheme.

Ten of those people were involved in election fraud and a “ghost candidate” scheme, Scheller said.

Seven were involved in public corruption and three took part in a scheme to defraud the Small Business Administration, the attorney alleged.

Eight of the people identified by Greenberg were men involved in sex crimes, Scheller said.

Some of the 24 people named by Greenberg took part in multiple crimes, the attorney claimed.

Of those 24 people, Scheller said only five have been criminally prosecuted so far, with two others expected to be indicted for SBA loan fraud in the next weeks.

Federal prosecutors indicated some criminal probes remain active.

“The defendant has been given credit for cases that are under investigation,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Daniels said.

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About the Authors:

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

Samantha started at WKMG-TV in September 2020. Before joining the News 6 team, Samantha was a political reporter for The Villages Daily Sun and has had freelance work featured in the Evansville Courier-Press and The Community Paper. When not writing, she enjoys travelling and performing improv comedy.