Updated Information on the Gaetz and Greenberg Case

July 22, 2022 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements

Middle District of Florida Judge Gregory Presnell has set the sentencing date for Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, which is set for December 1st, 2022. Greenberg was arrested and charged with multiple crimes, and has now pleaded guilty to six corruption charges and one charge of sex trafficking a minor.

U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz is also being investigated for the case, but has yet to admit to any wrongdoing. Greenberg is currently working with the police to investigate Gaetz in exchange for his plea deal. We will cover the details of the case, along with sex trafficking of a minor, and white collar crimes in Florida.

What was the Initial Case?

Former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Micah Greenberg was arrested and charged with sex federal offenses. The criminal charges include sex trafficking of a child, illegal producing of an identification document, aggravated identity theft, wire fraud, stalking, and conspiracy.

When authorities arrested Greenberg, they found two fake driver’s licenses in his wallet. The two forms of false identification had his picture on them but the personal information of the victim. Police believe Greenberg used his position as a Tax Collector to make the fake I.Ds.

In addition to using his job to make several fake forms of identification, Greenberg also used his employment with the Seminole County Tax Collector’s office to embezzle an estimated $430,000. He paid $3,000 to bribe a member of the Small Business Administration (SBA) to help him with the scheme. Greenberg also paid $16,000 to the individual that got him into the conspiracy.

The embezzlement included purchasing cryptocurrency, operating a business that sold cryptocurrency for mining machines, and selling and purchasing personal items—such as sports memorabilia. By bribing the SBA employee to help, Greenberg submitted loan applications that falsely claimed two of his businesses had been operating prior to February 2020. However, both businesses had already been dissolved by the state. The loan applications held fake information on the numbers and revenues of the business and its employees.

Greenberg also attempted to cause severe emotional distress to a Middle District of Florida political opponent by sending fake mail from an “anonymous” sender to the school the opponent worked for. Greenberg pretended to be an anonymous fellow student who was concerned about the sexual misconduct the opponent allegedly engaged in with another student.

The following organizations were involved in the case’s investigation:

  • United States Secret Service
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • S. Small Business Administration
  • Office of Inspector General
  • Osceola County Sheriff’s Office
  • Seminole County Sheriff’s Office
  • United States Postal Inspection Service

During the entire investigation process, Greenberg has been operating with authorities. However, Gaetz has yet to be charged with any crimes, and still claims that he is not guilty of any wrongdoings.

Delays in Sentencing

Greenberg pleaded guilty to six of the charges in May 2021.

The following is a list of the charges Greenberg pleaded guilty to:

  • Sex Trafficking a Child
  • Illegally Producing a False Identification Document
  • Aggravated Identity Theft
  • Wire Fraud
  • Stalking
  • Conspiracy

His plea was part of a deal with the prosecution team to work with the federal government regarding the investigation of Gaetz. In the plea agreement, Greenberg admitted to having sex with a minor, paying for the sex with a minor, and also introducing the minor to other adult men for sex. No specific names have been mentioned so far.

The sentencing for Greenberg has already been delayed by a year after pleading guilty. Middle District Judge Gregory Presnell has now set the date for the rescheduling for December 1st, 2022. He will be sentenced on five public corruption charges, along with one charge of sex trafficking a minor.

Based on the mandatory minimum sentencing in the federal sentencing guidelines, Greenberg is potentially facing anywhere between 12 years in prison, up to the possible life imprisonment just for the charge of sex trafficking a minor. We will see if the judge grants a lighter sentence based on Greenberg’s cooperation with authorities.

Trafficking a Minor in Florida

Human trafficking is defined under Florida Statute Section 787.06 as the “transporting, soliciting, recruiting, harboring, providing, enticing, maintaining, or obtaining another person for the purpose of exploitation of that person.”

Trafficking is considered when there is force, fraud, or coercion used. Whereas smuggling is considered when it is the individual’s choice. The victims of trafficking can usually fall into three categories:

  • Children under 18-years-old induced into commercial sex
  • Adults 18 or older induced into commercial sex through force, fraud, or coercion
  • Children and adults induced to perform labor or services through force, fraud, or coercion

There are other categories of victims such as victims trafficked to sell their organs, but the ones listed above are the most common. If any person has knowingly or in reckless regard of the fact, engages in human trafficking, or benefits financially by receiving anything of value from participation in a venture that has subjected another person commercial sex, they have committed human trafficking.

Additionally, there is a key difference between the trafficking of adults and the trafficking of children. For adults, the state has to prove that the victim’s consent to the exploitation (usually sex or labor) was coerced. However, in the case of sex trafficking a minor, the minor by law cannot consent, therefore, the state does not have to prove that the consent was coerced or forced.

If a defendant has been accused of trafficking a minor under the age of 18 or an adult believed by the person to be a minor under 18 for the purpose of labor or services, they commit a felony in the first degree. This is punishable with up to a $10,000 fine and up to 30 years in prison.

If a defendant has been accused of trafficking a minor for the purpose of commercial sexual activity, then they have committed a life felony. A life felony under this specific statute entails potentially life in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

To learn more about human trafficking and the difference between the state and federal charge, read our blog here.

White Collar Crimes in Florida

White collar crimes are nonviolent crimes that generally involve a business scheme for illegal financial gains. There are a number of different crimes that are considered white collar crimes in Florida. The following is a list of just a few charges that fall under white collar crimes:

To read more about the specific white collar crimes and their potential penalties if convicted, read our informative page here.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime, your first step should be contacting a skilled defense attorney in your area. Going through the legal process can be daunting and intimidating. Having the help of an experienced attorney can help you build a strong defense to your case and work towards earning your freedom. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm represent clients all across the state of Florida and are determined to stand in your corner and fight for you and your case. For a free consultation call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message today.

Written by Karissa Key

Back to Top