Seminole County tax collector accused of stalking, impersonating political opponent on social media

Video: Seminole County tax collector accused of stalking, impersonating political opponent on social media

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. — Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg was indicted Tuesday accused of stalking and using social media to impersonate a political opponent.

According to a news release by United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez, Greenberg, 35, of Lake Mary, is facing charges of stalking and unlawful use of a means of identification of another person. If convicted on both counts, he faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison.

The normally outspoken Republican said nothing as he walked out of the Florida Middle District federal courthouse in downtown Orlando around noon Tuesday.

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Though the indictment does not name the victim, Greenberg is being challenged in the Republican primary by longtime educator Brian Beute. When reached by phone today, Beute referred Channel 9 to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The indictment states that Greenberg sent letters to the school where his political opponent worked posing as a “very concerned student” at the school reporting that his opponent had engaged in sexual misconduct with a student.

According to the indictment, Greenberg also created a Facebook account posing as a “very concerned teacher” from the school where his opponent worked, echoing the false claims of sexual misconduct.

Greenberg is also accused of setting up a Twitter account posing as his opponent, using the name and photograph of the school employee, without that person’s knowledge, consent or authorization.

The indictment states that Greenberg used that account to make postings that falsely represented that the school employee was “a segregationist and in favor of white supremacy.”

“We look forward to taking this case to trial,” Greenberg’s attorney Vincent Citro said. “The government is not going to be able to prove its case. What they’ve done is taken something that is wrong on Twitter and made it a federal case. It doesn’t belong here.”

Attorney Brian Bieber, who represents the Office of the Tax Collector, confirmed there is also an ongoing, separate federal investigation, into questions of spending. That investigation was launched in April 2019.

Greenberg is no stranger to controversy, and if federal prosecutors can prove the allegations about Facebook and Twitter, it wouldn’t be the first time his social media use has been questioned.

Greenberg posted to his personal Facebook in 2018, “Name just one society in the developed world that has benefited in any way from the introduction of more Muslims. Just one. Asking for a friend.”

That same year, body camera video recorded Greenberg asserting his position as tax collector to ask Lake Mary Police for a warning during a traffic stop.

After claiming he and his employees were “deputized” and able to open-carry weapons while performing their duties, then-Attorney General Pam Bondi issued a ruling to the contrary.

Though Greenberg had never been arrested prior to taking office, his name did appear in several sealed Sheriff’s Office reports, released to Channel 9 by Seminole County in 2016. Those included a burglary incident and a Baker Act from when Greenberg was 18 and 21. Channel 9 offered him a chance to speak about those allegations before the election in 2016, but he declined.

As part of his pre-trial release conditions, Greenberg will have to undergo a mental evaluation, and he is not allowed to leave the Florida Middle District. He also cannot keep any weapons in his home, or interact with the victim outside of campaign events.

Channel 9 contacted the Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office to see if he planned to suspend Greenberg as tax collector in light of his indictment. The Governor’s Press Office said the situation is under review.

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