By HENRY FREDERICK / HEADLINE SURFER
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Asked by a federal judge earlier today in US District Court in Orlando if he understood a cooperation agreement that he signed pleading guilty to child sex trafficking and five other felonies would not allow him to withdraw his pleas when he comes up for sentencing, Joel Greenberg, the disgraced former Seminole County Tax Collector responded, "I do."
Greenberg, his wrists and ankles shackled and dressed in a black jail jumpsuit, almost without exception, used the same affirmative response to dozens of questions: "I do" as opposed to "yes."
And though he appeared gaunt with a COVID mask covering most of his face, Greenberg nonetheless stoic with his acknowledgments to the major factual elements to each of the crimes with a clear and convincing voice, never hesitating or wavering in the refrain, "I do."
The refrain was uttered like clockwork when asked if he understood and agreed with each of the elements of the following counts and that he subsequently admitted his guilt to the following felony charges:
• Sex trafficking of a child;
• Production of false identification;
• Aggravated identity theft;
• Wire fraud;
• Conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States.
According to the plea agreement, Greenberg paid for commercial sex acts, including with an individual who was a minor for part of the time when Greenberg paid her to engage in those acts.
Greenberg had met the minor on an internet website and he engaged in commercial sex acts with her on at least seven occasions when she was under the age of 18. Greenberg also introduced the minor to other adult men, who engaged in commercial sex acts with the minor in the Middle District of Florida.
On the day of his arrest and execution of a federal search warrant at his residence on June 23, 2020, Greenberg was found in possession of two fake driver's licenses in his wallet – each license contained the personal information of the victim but with Greenberg’s photograph. Greenberg used his position as Tax Collector to facilitate the production of those fake drivers licenses.
In addition, Greenberg used his position as Seminole County Tax Collector to embezzle and divert over $400,000 to benefit himself, including to purchase cryptocurrency, to operate a business that sold cryptocurrency mining machines, to mine cryptocurrency, and to purchase personal items, such as autographed sports memorabilia.
Greenberg also engaged in a course of conduct that caused and attempted to cause substantial emotional distress to a political opponent who worked in the Middle District of Florida, including by knowingly mailing false letters to the school where the employee worked. The letters claimed to be from an anonymous “very concerned student” of the school who claimed to know the school employee had engaged in sexual misconduct with a particular student.
After his federal arrest in June 2020, and while released on special conditions, Greenberg conspired with an employee of the Small Business Administration (SBA) and another individual to submit false claims to SBA for Economic Injury Disaster Loans, available under the CARES Act to businesses negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Greenberg and the SBA employee conspired to submit loan applications for two of Greenberg’s businesses falsely claiming the businesses were operating prior to February 2020, when in fact the State previously had administratively dissolved both businesses and Greenberg only reinstated them to apply for the loans.
Greenberg and the SBA employee also conspired to apply for a third loan in Greenberg’s name. The loan applications provided false information about the revenues and numbers of employees for the businesses. As a result of the conspiracy, Greenberg received over $430,000, and he paid $16,000 of that to the individual who recruited him into the scheme and $3,000 of it as a bribe to the SBA employee.
This case was investigated by the United States Secret Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Small Business Administration - Office of Inspector General, with assistance from the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office, the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, and the United States Postal Inspection Service. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Roger B. Handberg and Jennifer M. Harrington.
Henry Frederick is a member of the working press and publisher of Headline Surfer, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet launched in 2008, that serves greater Daytona Beach, Sanford & Orlando, Florida via HeadlineSurfer.com. Frederick has amassed close to 150 award-winning bylines in print & online. He earned his Master of Arts in New Media Journalism from Full Sail University in 2019. He was a breaking news reporter (metro cops & courts beat) for the Daytona Beach News-Journal for nearly a decade. And Before that worked the same beat for The Journal-News/Gannett Suburban Newspapers in Rockland/Westchester counties, NY, dating back to 1989. Having witnessed the execution of serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Florida's death chamber and covering other high profile cases, Frederick has appeared on national crime documentary shows on Discovery ID, Reelz, and the Oxygen Network series "Snapped" for his analysis. • Award-Winning Journalism: Florida Press Club recognizes Headline Surfer for nine stories in 2020 statewide competition. • Award-Winning Journalism of Henry Frederick.