ORLANDO, Fla. – Former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg was sentenced to 11 years in federal prison Thursday on a slew of charges, ranging from child sex trafficking to aggravated identity theft, wire fraud and stalking.
Greenberg could have faced a far longer sentence, but prosecutors said he has spent the last two years talking to federal and state investigators in a number of cases. He provided so much information that not only was his sentencing delayed, it was lowered.
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Fritz Scheller, Greenberg’s attorney, said his client was continuing to assist in investigations both at the federal and state levels.
“I think that there are a number of prosecutions that can be brought in the area of the SBA fraud, bribery and kickbacks, election fraud, and the sex cases,” Scheller said.
These are the cases we know Greenberg has cooperated on.
These are the cases we know the least about. Often, any information regarding this investigation is under seal. What is known is that Greenberg used a “sugar daddy” website to procure women. In one instance, Greenberg told prosecutors that U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida gave him money to pay a woman from the website who turned out to be 17. The case includes a trip to the Bahamas with a group of women and whether any of these women were paid as prostitutes or later hired into government positions as political favors, according to the Associated Press.
The Washington Post reported in September that career federal prosecutors have advised not to pursue sex trafficking charges against Gaetz because of the credibility of two witnesses, Greenberg being one of them.
Scheller said on Thursday after Greenberg’s sentencing that there are seven or eight men who should be facing charges in the sex trafficking case who have not yet been indicted, though he would not give more information and made no mention of whether Gaetz was one of them.
During the sentencing, U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell tried to put Greenberg’s sex trafficking charge into perspective, saying he was not a pedophile.
“It appears this minor, who was also 18, was essentially a prostitute,” Presnell said.
Scheller said in his defendant sentencing memorandum that the 17-year-old had contacted Greenberg first, and she had lied about her age.
Bribery and kickbacks
Three people have been indicted as part of schemes involving bribery, kickbacks and the Seminole County Tax Collector’s Office.
In the case of Joseph Ellicott, a former assistant deputy tax collector, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison. He admitted to giving Greenberg a $6,000 bribe in 2017 that was allegedly sent from a contractor for the agency. Ellicott is assisting the government with other investigations.
The contractor, Michael Shirley, is accused of paying a kickback to Greenberg. In exchange, Shirley would be allowed to submit inflated invoices to the tax collector’s office. The invoices netted Shirley more than $460,000 under the contract, according to federal prosecutors. Shirley pleaded not guilty in October.
Small Business Administration fraud
In June 2020, prosecutors said Greenberg conspired with an employee of the Small Business Administration to submit false claims to the SBA for economic injury disaster loans funded by federal pandemic relief money. Prosecutors said Greenberg began the scheme days before he was arrested for stalking, but Greenberg continued with his scheme, getting over $430,000 between June and July 2020.
Prosecutors said Greenberg’s information led to the arrest of Teresa McIntyre as part of the scheme. Documents from federal prosecutors said she prepared the fraudulent applications on behalf of others and then worked with an SBA loan specialist to get the loans approved. She accepted a plea deal in May 2022.
Federal prosecutors said Greenberg cooperated in the investigation of a $12 million property fraud scheme in Seminole County.
As part of the plea deal, Ingersoll admitted to taking part in a real estate transaction with a Winter Springs property, an old bank building. A straw purchaser reportedly bought the property for $680,000, then immediately sold the property to the tax collector’s office for $942,000, making a substantial profit. Ingersoll said the deal was an inside job.
In August, Greenberg became a witness to another high-profile case in Seminole County: the so-called “ghost candidate” election fraud case.
The Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement said investigators interviewed Greenberg, who said he sat in on conversations that led to a scheme to place an independent “ghost candidate” on the November 2020 election ballot for the Florida Senate District 9 race. The goal of the scheme, according to prosecutors, was to siphon votes away from the Democratic candidate to the independent candidate, helping Republican Florida Sen. Jason Brodeur win the election.
Greenberg said Brodeur himself was involved in the discussions, something Brodeur denied.
Brodeur is not facing any charges. Former Longwood Mayor Benjamin Paris, political consultant Eric Foglesong, and the “ghost candidate” Jestine Iannotti were arrested in connection with the case.
While Greenberg’s testimony to FDLE was included as evidence in the cases against Iannotti and Paris, Greenberg did not testify on the witness stand.
Paris was found guilty in September of giving money to a candidate under a false name in the first of three trials.
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