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A federal judge sentenced a former Florida tax collector to 11 years in prison on Thursday for sex trafficking a 17-year-old female and other criminal offenses.
Joel Greenberg, a former Seminole County tax collector, was accused of several crimes, including stalking a political opponent, public corruption, creating fake licenses, and plotting to submit false claims for a federal loan.
Greenberg pleaded guilty to six federal crimes, including identity theft, stalking, wire fraud, and conspiracy to bribe a public official.
“Nothing justifies my actions,” Greenberg said before U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell in an Orlando courtroom, according to The Associated Press. “My conduct is so shameful. I feel remorse for what I’ve done.”
Greenberg further issued a list of apologies in court — to the minor, the people of Seminole County, and his parents, children, and ex-wife.
“I deserve punishment no matter how long that may be,” he said, according to The New York Times.
The New York Times reported that Greenberg initially faced up to 30 years in prison for several crimes, including trafficking a 17-year-old girl, stalking a political rival, and stealing $400,000 in taxpayer money to buy cryptocurrencies and sports memorabilia.
However, federal authorities reduced his sentence in exchange for cooperation with the government, which led to investigations of 24 people, including eight for sex crimes.
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who had ties with Greenberg, was probed by federal investigators after allegations were made that he paid for sex with a minor in violation of federal sex trafficking laws.
Gaetz has repeatedly denied the allegations, claiming they were part of an extortion plot from “people at the Department of Justice.”
Sources familiar with the investigation of Gaetz reported last month that prosecutors informed their superiors that they would not be pursuing charges against the representative in connection with a sex-trafficking investigation that has been ongoing since 2020.
Prosecutors argued that the charges would be dropped because Greenberg and another central witness in the case have questionable credibility.
Greenberg, a former associate of Gaetz, allegedly tried to smear the Republican congressman, similar to other accusations he made against politicians.
Judge Presnell said, “He has provided substantial cooperation to the government — more than I’ve seen in 22 years.”
“In 22 years, I’ve never experienced a case like this,” Judge Presnell said. “I have never seen a defendant who has committed so many different types of crimes in such a short period.”
Defense attorney Fritz Scheller said Greenberg’s cooperation brought four federal indictments, with more expected to come soon.
Scheller also reportedly requested to the judge that Greenberg only get a portion of the sentencing, arguing that his client had changed since committing the crimes.
“Mr. Greenberg was using money and sex to get access to political circles,” Scheller said. “He came from a dark place, a lack of self-worth, and tried to ingratiate himself with a collection of people.”
U.S. Attorney Roger B. Handberg for the Middle District of Florida described Greenberg as a “hardened criminal who never did the job he was elected to,” according to The New York Times.
“He was not deterred when he found himself under criminal investigation,” Handberg said, according to The New York Times. “He was not deterred when he was brought into this building.”