Who will Joel Greenberg be leading prosecutors to first?


Months after his election, Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg turned the Tax Collector’s office into the backdrop for a global criminal enterprise. Indeed, the 86-page account of crimes to which Greenberg pleaded guilty in federal court on Monday encompasses every deadly sins, excluding laziness.

Joel Greenberg, Seminole County Tax Collector.

Lust, as always, grabbed the headlines. Greenberg admitted to using multiple accounts – including a government-issued American Express card – to pay for “commercial sex acts.” Of those more than 150 transactions, several with a 17-year-old who was paid to have sex with Greenberg and other men, which led to a charge of child sex trafficking. Several media reports suggest that US Representative Matt Gaetz was part of Greenberg’s “sex ring” (which Gaetz denies).

About advocacy:Joel Greenberg pleads guilty to sex trafficking, will cooperate with further investigations

Mark Lane:Seminole County Tax Collector’s lawsuit kicked a large boulder

The plea deal also details how Greenberg embezzled $ 300,000 in taxpayer dollars to buy cryptocurrency, stole driver’s licenses, and forged identity documents using the identities of real people. Greenberg also admitted fabricating a potentially deadly scandal against a political opponent and concocting fraudulent loan applications under the federal CARES Act – even after being arrested on other charges.

The fact that Greenberg can continue on this path for nearly three years – so daring, so inept – reveals the ugliest truth at the heart of this kind of government corruption. Like the detail of the plea deal, many employees in the tax collector’s office noticed things wrong: Greenberg’s demands for six-figure checks. His occasional scan of expired or confiscated driver’s licenses.

After:The Matt Gaetz case leads to the race of Senator Jason Brodeur of the State of Volusia. What will they find?

But it wasn’t until Greenberg launched a vicious smear campaign against a potential political rival – and left his fingerprints on a paper letter sent to the school where his enemy worked – that it all fell apart.

A banner plane flies over the Orlando U.S. District courthouse dragging a message "Tick ​​Tock Matt Gaetz" at the Joel Greenberg plea hearing, Monday, May 17, 2021.

There is another theme built into the plea deal: repeated references to various co-conspirators. Newsweek analysis revealed that as yet unknown people are involved on 60 of the 86 pages of the deal.

The plea agreement only mentions two specifically, both employees of the Small Business Administration. But suspicion has already focused on others. The Daily Beast website obtained a “letter of confession,” purportedly from Greenberg to former Trump associate Roger Stone, which claims Gaetz also had sex with Greenberg, 17, accused of trafficking. Greenberg and Gaetz are also involved in a shadowy network of GOP officials who sought to influence the election by recruiting bogus candidates as ringers to siphon votes from Democratic opponents – a system that has previously produced indictments of former Senator Frank Artiles of Miami the co-conspirator, he is accused of paying to participate in a Senate race in South Florida.

The same tactics have manifested themselves in other races, including that of State Senator Jason Brodeur, whose district includes part of Volusia County. Her opponent, a “ghost candidate” by the name of Jestine Ionatti, never campaigned but was the subject of expensive mailings that featured a large photo of a black woman and liberal rhetoric.

Jestine Iannotti, the shadow third party candidate in last year's Florida Senate District 9 race, lives in this Winter Springs home, Seminole County election records show.  No one responded when The News-Journal knocked on the door.

After:Three electoral deceptions that should force lawmakers to work on a fix (they aren’t).

As the News-Journal’s Mark Harper and other outlets – including the New York Times, the Orlando Sentinel, and the Daily Beast – have reported, Greenberg, Gates, Brodeur and others are connected in myriad other ways, through consultants and personal knowledge, and there are a lot of questionable threads to follow. What, for example, did Lake County State Representative Anthony Sabatini do in exchange for $ 7,500 in legal fees from the Greenberg office?

The big question, of course: who will take the time to unravel the ties and determine if – and where – other corruption is flourishing? We see only one possibility: the Department of Justice, which is already investigating Gaetz and others.

It will be tedious work, but Florida is in desperate need of restoring public confidence. It is essential, as the Justice investigation progresses, that the federal government make its findings public. Florida has one of the strongest public anti-corruption laws in the country, and it includes an absolute ban on any action by public office holders leading to private gain.

The federal government cannot enforce this law, but it can force the hands of Florida state officials.

But we have to ask ourselves: why do they have to be forced? Why haven’t Republican and Democratic lawmakers – including Senator Travis Hutson as well as Reps Paul Renner and Cyndi Stevenson – called for an investigation or looked for ways to correct the shadow candidate’s loophole? True, they were keen enough to pass election laws to tackle “problems” that never materialized.

Floridians deserve the truth. It’s about time they got it.


About Julius Southworth

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