Joel Greenberg Sentenced to 11 Years
December 8, 2022 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Criminal Defense, Theft/Property Crimes Social Share
Former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg has been sentenced in one of the State’s most stunning cases of criminal corruption. Greenberg was facing over 30 criminal charges, but after a plea deal between him and the prosecutor’s office, Greenberg was only convicted of six felony charges. Greenberg has now been sentenced to 11 years in federal prison for the crimes against him.
This article will provide information on the case and its various details.
Joel Greenberg was elected as the Seminole County tax collector in 2016. He was only 31 years old at the time, and considered a political newcomer after defeating Ray Valdes. During his first day in office, Greenberg allegedly used the Tax Collector’s Office and its resources to cover his tracks in a previous false identification case from several years earlier.
Within only months of working as the tax collector, Greenberg allegedly spent millions of dollars on creating salaried positions for his friends and political associates within the Tax Collector’s Office.
Greenberg was then accused of spending over $70,000 on more than 150 separate transactions. The transactions included paying for sex with women in hotels, sometimes even paid for with the Tax Collector Office’s American Express Card. According to the report, at least seven of the commercial sex transactions were with a minor.
Greenberg was accused of opening a private bank account and funding it with public money from the Tax Collector’s Office. In addition, the State believed that Greenberg used thousands of dollars to invest in cryptocurrency. In one instance, Greenberg purchased electronic machines to mine for cryptocurrency. However, the machines were wired incorrectly and caused a fire at the Lake Mary Tax Collector’s Office.
In late 2019, Greenberg embarked on a smear campaign of his opponent, private school teacher Brian Beute. Greenberg allegedly had letters sent to Beute’s private school that accused the teacher of engaging in a sexual relationship with a student. Greenberg also created social media profiles disguised as Beute, where he falsely portrayed the private school teacher of being a white supremacist.
Judge Presnell called the identity theft a “horrible crime” and that the smear campaign was “the most horrendous of all…That was just downright evil.”
When the former tax collector was first arrested in 2020, he was facing 33 criminal charges. Those charges are as follows:
- Counts 1-4: Sex trafficking of a child, violations of the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, unlawful use of means of identification of another person.
- Counts 5-6: Production of an identification document, aggravated identity theft.
- Counts 7-10: Production of identification and false identification documents.
- Counts 11-20: Wire fraud
- Counts 21-23: Illegal monetary transactions
- Counts 24-25: Stalking and unlawful use of a means of identification
- Counts 26-33: Conspiracy to bribe a public official, submission of a false claim, theft of government property, wire fraud
In May 2021, Greenberg pleaded guilty to six felony charges against him. During the courtroom hearing, Magistrate Judge Leslie R. Hoffman asked Greenberg, “Are you pleading guilty because you are guilty?”
“I am,” Greenberg replied.
The plea deal Greenberg and his attorney agreed to meant that 27 of the 33 charges were dropped. The six felonies he pleaded guilty to included sex trafficking of a minor, identity theft, stalking, wire fraud, and conspiracy to bribe a public official. Greenberg was looking at 12 years in prison, as well as registering as a sex offender upon release.
Scheller argued that there were mitigating factors in the sex trafficking case, including that the girl Greenberg had sex with was “on the brink of turning 18.” Scheller also argued that the minor had a profile posted on an escort site claiming to be over the age of 18.
“During the three and a half years when he was a tax collector, Joel Micah Greenberg repeatedly used his position to engage in a bold, brazen, and nearly undeterrable crime spree,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Harrington in a recent court filing.
Fritz Scheller, Greenberg’s attorney, claimed that his client had a long-running history of mental illness. “It was the result of an impaired mind,” he said of his client’s mental state during the alleged crimes.
Scheller explained that Greenberg suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) from the age of seven-years-old. The defendant also has dealt with depression, panic attacks, impulsiveness, and anxiety disorders. Scheller claimed that Greenberg’s “pervasive criminal conduct” and lack of impulse control was due to him being under medication and psychiatric treatment while working as the Seminole County tax collector.
“Mr. Greenberg was using money and sex to get access to political circles,” Scheller said. “He came from a dark place, a lack of self-worth, and tried to ingratiate himself with important people.”
Cases Against Former Associates
Greenberg was facing a mandatory prison sentence of 12 years for sex trafficking a minor, producing fake IDs, along with other charges. His defense attorney has requested a lighter sentence, however, due to his assistance in several other white collar crime cases.
The following is a list of several associates and the charges against them:
- Keith Ingersoll – Pleaded guilty to playing a role in a scheme that defrauded millions of dollars from an investor.
- Teresa McIntyre – Pleaded guilty in assisting in the COVID-19 relief fraud scheme.
- Michael Shirley – Pleaded not guilty to the allegations that he paid thousands of dollars to Greenberg in bribes and kickbacks.
- Joseph Elliot – Pleaded guilty to acting as a middleman between Shirley and Greenberg, and is currently serving 15 months in federal prison.
To find out more about information about how Greenberg is assisting authorities, read our blog post here.
Greenberg’s official sentencing took place on December 1st, 2022. The former tax collector was sentenced to 11 years in federal prison. After the 2021 plea deal, the prosecution team called for a sentence between 9.25 and 11 years.
Prior to announcing the sentence, Judge Presnell said he had “never experienced a case like this” in the 22 years he has worked as a federal judge. When dealing with such a case that involved public corruption, Presnell called it “chartering new territory.”
Scheller has repeatedly claimed that Greenberg was just one player in a much larger racket of criminality dealing with both election corruption and sex trafficking. The defense attorney said his client continues to help state authorities with the ongoing investigation of around two dozen individuals.
Although Scheller was requesting a lighter sentence of only eight years, he is still pleased with the outcome. The attorney feared Greenberg could be sentenced to as much as 30 years in federal prison. He also claims that his client, “does have a genuine sense of remorse.”
Greenberg apologized to Beute in a prepared statement to the court on Thursday. The defendant also apologized to his parents, ex-wife, and his children. “I know I can never make up for what I’ve done and I deserve punishment for what I’ve done,” Greenberg said.
Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida
White collar crimes can have severe consequences in the state of Florida. Crimes like identity theft and fraud are often harshly prosecuted and can result in expensive fines and imprisonment if convicted. If you or someone you know has been accused of a white-collar crime, reach out to an experienced white collar criminal defense attorney in your area.
Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have years of experience working with clients in the state of Florida. We cover all types of criminal cases and will work with you to strategize a strong defense for your case. For a free consultation contact us at (850) 681-7777 or leave us an online message on our website.
Written by Karissa Key