Matt Gaetz associate Joel Greenberg has been accused of everything from acting as a vigilante police officer to trying to hack rival politicians

Joel Greenberg, tax collector for Seminole County
  • Embattled former Florida tax collector Joel Greenberg had a troubled tenure in office, the NYT reports.
  • Before being charged with federal crimes, Greenberg was accused of abusing his office and wasting taxpayer funds.
  • Greenberg, an associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz, is now a key player in the investigation against Gaetz.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Embattled former Seminole County, Florida, tax collector Joel Greenberg, now a major player in the federal probe against Rep. Matt Gaetz, had a long history of being accused of official misconduct, including having complaints filed accusing him of acting as a vigilante police officer and abusing taxpayer funds.

A new examination of Greenberg’s tenure by The New York Times on Sunday uncovered numerous warning signs about Greenberg’s conduct in office. After a somewhat troubled youth, Greenberg was elected to the position of tax collector in the county in 2016, defeating the longtime incumbent in a primary challenge.

The Times said that Greenberg soon found himself “bored” in his position and sought ways to use it to his personal advantage, a tendency that would lead to his downfall and formal resignation in 2020.

Read more: Matt Gaetz is employing Trump-style fundraising pitches – including automatic recurring contributions that could dupe donors

In a complaint filed with the county’s sheriff’s office and reported by The Times, a woman said that in 2017 Greenberg pulled her over with his tax collector’s badge around his neck and yelled at her for apparently cutting him off, saying she drove “like a bat out of hell.”

Greenberg was also accused of spending over $1 million in taxpayer funds for gear including weapons and a drone, creating “no-show jobs” for family and members of his wedding party, and of trying to solicit help to hack computers belonging to member of the county commission who had criticized him.

One lawyer who represented one of Greenberg’s former employees told The Times: “It’s like the Tiger King got elected tax collector.”

Greenberg was also accused of stalking Brian Beute, a rival Democratic candidate for tax collector and local music teacher who had advocated against a real estate development supported by Greenberg.

Greenberg’s actions, according to the indictment against him, included sending a fake anonymous letter to the school claiming Beute had an inappropriate relationship with a student (and making a Facebook account to perpetuate the same false claims) and creating a fake Twitter account posing as Beutler that posted white supremacist and pro-segregationist content.

Greenberg was first criminally charged with stalking Beute and unlawfully using his identity by federal prosecutors in June 2020.

He now faces over 30 federal charges ranging from sex trafficking of a child, aggravated identity theft, creating fake IDs, wire fraud, illegal monetary transfers, and conspiracy to bribe a public official to defraud the Small Business Administration for COVID-19 relief funds, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

The Sentinel reports that Greenberg is expected to strike a plea deal to plead guilty to some of the charges by mid-May. Greenberg faces 10 years to life in prison on the sex trafficking charge alone.

During his tumultuous tenure as tax collector, Greenberg became friends with Gaetz, and was brought into the fray of Republican politics in the state. He even spoke at a rally for former President Donald Trump in 2016.

Gaetz is under federal investigation for possible trafficking of a minor across state lines. Authorities are also examining whether Gaetz and Greenberg paid women for sex. Gaetz has denied the accusations and has not yet been charged with a crime.

Insider’s Sonam Sheth recently reported that the extent of Greenberg’s current legal woes could up the pressure on him to cooperate against others involved in the charges against him, and potentially cause serious trouble for Gaetz.

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Matt Gaetz reportedly sent $900 to ally and accused sex trafficker, who then gave the money to young women

matt gaetz revenge porn law
  • Rep. Matt Gaetz sent $900 over Venmo to Joel Greenberg, a political ally and accused sex trafficker.
  • The Daily Beast reported the money was sent in 2018.
  • Greenberg then sent $900, in varying amounts, to three young women, including an 18-year-old.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Matt Gaetz has claimed to be the victim of a smear campaign, the Florida Republican’s office issuing a statement that he “has never paid for sex.” But the lawmaker, who is now under federal investigation, previously sent $900 to a political ally who has been indicted for sex trafficking – and who turned around and sent the money, in various amounts to three young women, The Daily Beast reported Thursday.

All of the women were over 18, according The Daily Beast, which said it reviewed the Venmo transactions following a tip from a source. Joel Greenberg, who received the money from Gaetz, labeled his subsequent Venmo payments “Tuition,” School,” and “School,” according to the report.

A spokesperson for Gaetz did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

The revelation comes after a lawyer for Greenberg, the former tax collector for Seminole County, said his client was close to reaching a plea deal with the US Department of Justice.

Greenberg is, among other things, accused of exploiting his role to obtain personal records on young women with whom he had relationships, including one described by prosecutors as being between the ages of 14 and 18.

“I’m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” the lawyer, Fritz Scheller, told reporters.

The Justice Department is investigating whether Gaetz himself had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. The congressman has denied the allegation.

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Matt Gaetz’s associate Joel Greenberg will likely accept a plea deal, his lawyers told a judge

Matt Gaetz
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., listens during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on the constitutional grounds for the impeachment of President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019.

  • Matt Gaetz’s associate Joel Greenberg will likely accept a plea deal, his lawyers said Thursday.
  • Gaetz and Greenberg are the focus of a wide-ranging federal sex crimes investigation.
  • Greenberg is facing 33 charges, including carrying out the sex trafficking of a minor.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Joel Greenberg, an indicted former Florida tax collector, will likely accept a plea deal, his lawyers told a judge on Thursday.

“We believe this case will be a plea,” Roger Handberg, one of the federal prosecutors working on the case, told the court.

Gaetz and Greenberg are at the center of a broad Justice Department sex-crimes investigation. Greenberg has been indicted on 33 counts, including one charging him with carrying out the sex trafficking of a minor between the ages of 14 and 17.

Gaetz has not been charged as part of the investigation, but investigators are said to be examining whether he had sex with a minor in 2019 – the same girl involved in the sex-trafficking count against Greenberg – and if he violated federal sex-trafficking laws.

The Florida Republican has denied the allegations against him and claims the investigation into him is part of an elaborate scheme to extort his family.

These are some of the key threads in the Gaetz probe:

  • Investigators are also said to be examining whether Gaetz used campaign money to fund travel and other expenses for women.
  • The New York Times reported that the inquiry is focusing on Gaetz and Greenberg’s interactions with “multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments.”
  • One person familiar with the conversations told The Times that Gaetz told the women to say that he paid for dinners and hotel rooms as part of their dates if anyone asked about the nature of their relationships.
  • People familiar with the encounters told The Times that some of the men and women, including Gaetz, took MDMA before having sex, and that in some cases the Florida lawmaker asked the women to find others who may want to have sex with him and his friends.
  • ABC News reported that the sex probe is focusing not just on Gaetz’s conduct in his home state of Florida but in other states as well.
  • CBS News reported that investigators are looking into a trip Gaetz took to the Bahamas in late 2018 or early 2019 with a hand surgeon and marijuana entrepreneur named Jason Pirozzolo. Sources told the news outlet that Pirozzolo footed the bill for travel expenses, hotel accommodations, and female escorts on the alleged trip, and that investigators are examining whether the women were trafficked illegally across state lines to have sex with Gaetz.
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