Matt Gaetz associate Joel Greenberg has been accused of everything from acting as a vigilante police officer to trying to hack rival politicians

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Grace Panetta
·3 min read
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Joel Greenberg, tax collector for Seminole County
Joel Greenberg. Seminole County
  • Joel Greenberg, a former Florida tax collector, had a troubled tenure, The Times reported.

  • Before his federal charges, Greenberg was accused of abusing his office and wasting taxpayer funds.

  • Greenberg, an associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz, is now a key player in the investigation into Gaetz.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Joel Greenberg, a former tax collector in Seminole County, Florida, who's now a major player in the federal investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz, had long been accused of official misconduct, including complaints accusing him of acting as a vigilante police officer and abusing taxpayer funds.

The New York Times on Sunday published an examination of Greenberg's tenure and uncovered numerous warning signs about Greenberg's conduct in office. After a somewhat troubled youth, Greenberg was elected as the county's tax collector in 2016, having defeated the longtime incumbent in a primary challenge.

The Times said Greenberg soon found himself "bored" and sought ways to use his office to his personal advantage, a tendency that would lead to his resignation in 2020.

Read more: Matt Gaetz is employing Trump-style fundraising pitches - including automatic recurring contributions that could dupe donors

In a complaint filed with the county's sheriff's office and cited by The Times, a woman said that in 2017 Greenberg pulled her over, wearing his tax collector's badge around his neck, and yelled at her for apparently cutting him off, saying she drove "like a bat out of hell."

The Times said Greenberg had also been accused of spending over $1 million in taxpayer funds on gear including weapons and a drone, of creating "no-show jobs" for family and members of his wedding party, and of trying to solicit help to hack computers belonging to members of the county commission who had criticized him.

One lawyer who represented one of Greenberg's former employees told The Times, "It's like the Tiger King got elected tax collector."

Greenberg was also accused of stalking Brian Beute, a local music teacher and Democratic candidate for tax collector who had opposed a real-estate development that Greenberg supported.

An indictment said that Greenberg had sent an anonymous letter to the school falsely claiming that Beute had an inappropriate relationship with a student (and made a Facebook account to perpetuate the claim) and that he'd created a Twitter account posing as Beute that posted white-supremacist and pro-segregationist content.

In June, federal prosecutors charged Greenberg with stalking Beute and unlawfully using his identity.

He now faces over 30 federal charges including sex trafficking of a child, aggravated identity theft, fake-ID creation, wire fraud, illegal monetary transfers, and conspiracy to bribe a public official to defraud the Small Business Administration for COVID-19 relief funds, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

The Sentinel reported that Greenberg is expected to strike a plea deal and plead guilty to some of the charges by mid-May. Greenberg could face 10 years to life in prison on the sex-trafficking charge alone.

During his tumultuous tenure as a tax collector, Greenberg became friends with Gaetz and was brought into the fray of Republican politics in the state. He even spoke at a rally for Donald Trump in 2016.

Gaetz is the focus of a federal investigation into whether he violated sex-trafficking laws. Authorities are also examining whether Gaetz and Greenberg paid women for sex. Gaetz has denied the accusations and has not been charged with a crime.

Insider's Sonam Sheth recently reported that the extent of Greenberg's legal woes could up the pressure on him to cooperate against others involved and cause serious trouble for Gaetz.

Read the original article on Business Insider