Ex-Florida official with ties to Gaetz sentenced to 11 years in sprawling public corruption case

Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP

The disgraced former Florida tax collector who cooperated with federal authorities in their investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) was sentenced Thursday to 11 years behind bars.

Joel Greenberg’s sentencing was delayed multiple times as he cooperated with state and federal authorities.

The sentencing brings to a close one of Seminole County’s most sprawling public corruption cases, which spurred inquiries into Gaetz and other public figures, including Halsey Beshears, a former state House member who also served as the secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Beshears resigned from his government post in 2021, citing health issues. Greenberg, Gaetz and Beshears were named on a December 2020 federal grand jury subpoena.

Authorities have accused Greenberg, an elected tax collector in Central Florida, of financial crimes, stalking, identity theft, sex trafficking a minor and other offenses.

Greenberg was initially charged with more than 30 criminal counts, but in May 2021 pleaded guilty to six charges — including sex trafficking and fraud — in exchange for his cooperation in multiple cases, including a sex trafficking probe into Gaetz. The two men were once friends, and Gaetz described Greenberg as his “wingman” to acquaintances.

The Justice Department’s probe into Gaetz, which started in 2020 during the closing months of the Trump administration, was looking into whether the Florida congressman had sex with a 17-year-old woman and paid her for it. Gaetz, one of former President Donald Trump’s most vocal supporters, had repeatedly denied the accusations and was never charged with a crime.

In September, a person with knowledge of the investigation indicated that the DOJ would likely not pursue charges against Gaetz.

Greenberg helped prosecutors secure convictions in several other cases, including Joe Ellicott, a collectibles dealer who was a groomsman at Greenberg’s wedding and received a 15-month sentence after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and distributing a controlled substance.