April 1, 2021

We don’t yet know the exact connection between Joel Greenberg’s criminal charges and the investigation into Gaetz but we do know that, as The New York Times reported, the Gaetz investigation is “part of a broader investigation into a political ally of his, a local official in Florida named Joel Greenberg, who was indicted last summer on an array of charges, including sex trafficking of a child and financially supporting people in exchange for sex, at least one of whom was an underage girl.”

Thanks to the Orlando Sentinel, we know that, “Several former employees told the Orlando Sentinel that Greenberg often mentioned how he and Gaetz were close friends, and that the congressman would often visit him at his Lake Mary home.”

Rachel Maddow did some digging into Gaetz’s buddy and I can assure you that the Times’ description of Greenberg’s charges don’t begin to adequately describe what an utter sleazeball he is.

MADDOW: After he won the election in November 2016 [as Seminole County, Florida tax collector] and got sworn in in early 2017, he apparently hired and started to pay with public funds six different people who had been part of his wedding party the previous year. I`m not sure that`s how you are supposed to staff up the tax collector`s office.

An Orlando Sentinel investigation found that he issued $1.9 million in contracts from his office to people who were his own close friends and business partners. Again, this is the tax collector`s office. A county audit found that for some reason within months of taking office, he also started spending public money for that office on guns and ammunition and body armor and drones.

As Maddow noted, body armor, guns and drones are not the kind of office supplies that normally go with job of tax collector. But oh, that just scratches the surface of the Greenberg sleaze and corruption. More from Rachel:

MADDOW: He set up a private for-profit company, running it from inside the county tax collector`s office and in setting up that private for-profit company, he decided he needed $65,000 in brand-new computer servers to run his new private company and then he billed the county for those computer servers.

Greenberg improperly installed those computer servers and they caught fire, Maddow said.

Greenberg’s troubles really began after he was arrested by the feds for stalking a man who planned to run against him.

MADDOW: To try to derail this potential opponent`s campaign, the tax collector guy, according to prosecutors, arranged for a false rape acquisition to be made against the man which was then sent to the school at which the guy worked. The same allegation was then hyped and circulated by a network of fake identity social media bots and accounts apparently controlled by a local guy from the Proud Boys and associated with Roger Stone.

Prosecutors say the tax collector guy also created a fake Twitter account in the name of the guy who was running against him and falsely posted things on that Twitter account in which he was claiming to be the guy running against him and also claiming to be a proud segregationist and a white supremacist.

When he was arrested, federal agents found Greenberg had quite the criminal operation going. They found evidence he had used his official role to steal constituents’ identities and make fake IDs, “mostly for himself,” Maddow said. It was not what he used them for.

Greenberg resigned from his job, thank goodness, but investigators seized his computers and found evidence of more criminal behavior. And here’s where you can’t help but wonder how Gaetz fits into the picture: Greenberg was charged with sex trafficking charges related to a girl between 14-17 and using Florida’s official driver’s license and vehicle databases to look up information about her and “other people with whom he was engaged in, quote, sugar daddy relationships,” Maddow continued.

Greenberg has since pled not guilty to all 14 federal charges, including sex trafficking of a child. He had been out on bail but is now in jail after a judge determined he had violated the terms of his bail. His trial is scheduled to begin in Florida.

So, this guy is facing serious jail time for some seriously disturbing misdeeds. What better way to lighten that burden than to roll over against a sitting Congressman? We don’t know if that’s the case. But we also don’t know just what kind of relationship Greenberg and Gaetz had.

I suspect we’ll be finding out before long and that it won’t be good news for Gaetz.

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