Friend of Florida tax collector in Gaetz case pleads guilty

FILE - Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., listens during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. A former employee in the office of a Florida tax collector whose arrest triggered an investigation into U.S. Rep. Gaetz has pleaded guilty to fraud and drug charges. Court documents showed that Joseph Ellicott pleaded guilty on Monday, Jan. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A former employee in the office of a Florida tax collector whose arrest triggered an investigation into U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz has pleaded guilty to fraud and drug charges.

Court documents showed that Joseph Ellicott pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and honest services fraud and distribution of a controlled substance.

Ellicott was a friend of former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg and was hired as a special projects manager in the tax collector's office.

Greenberg is currently in jail awaiting sentencing in federal court in March. He is facing up to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty last May to six federal crimes, including sex trafficking of a child, identity theft, stalking, wire fraud and conspiracy to bribe a public official.

Court documents said that Ellicott served as an intermediary for a bribe and kickback scheme between Greenberg and an outside contractor after Greenberg took office in 2017. The contractor submitted inflated invoices to the tax collector's office in exchange for paying Greenberg $6,000, according to court documents.

Court documents also said that Ellicott earned $5,000 over two years by selling Adderall, a drug used to treat attention deficit disorder.

Each charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, though court documents suggested prosecutors will ask for less time. Under the plea deal, Ellicott is required to pay back any money he earned illegally to Seminole County and cooperate with federal authorities in their ongoing investigation.

Greenberg’s plea agreement with prosecutors also requires continued cooperation with an ongoing probe into sex trafficking.

His cooperation could play a role in an ongoing investigation into Gaetz, a Republican who represents much of the Florida Panhandle. Gaetz was accused of paying a 17-year-old girl for sex. He has denied the allegations and previously said they were part of an extortion plot.

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