Former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg used the state’s private database to search for the personal information of hundreds of people, according to the tax office
ORLANDO, Fla .– Joel Greenberg, the former Seminole County tax collector who pleaded guilty in May to identity theft, stalking and sex trafficking, used his access to a state database through his public position to research the personal information of hundreds of people during his tenure, officials said on Wednesday.
Officials at the tax collector’s office provided few further details and did not reveal the names of the roughly 300 people Greenberg wanted using the driver and vehicle information database, known as DAVID’s name, nor confirmed whether these people will be notified.
“We are still working to determine the people searched,” said Alan Byrd, spokesperson for the tax collector’s office. “This was an activity of the former tax collector that was not tolerated by the DAVID system, and we are working to ensure that this kind of activity does not happen again.”
Commissioner Seminole Jay Zembower, who asked the county commission to have more control over the tax collector’s office, said he was outraged by the latest revelation of Greenberg’s apparent abuse of his office.
“I’m not surprised for a single moment,” Zembower said. “But that causes me great concern for these people, who for whatever reason he (Greenberg) was asking for their personal information.”
The DAVID system is used by criminal justice and law enforcement officials – including police officers and deputy sheriffs on patrol – to quickly access a person’s information, including social security number, date of birth, addresses, signatures and medical and disability information.
Greenberg and his employees had access to the DAVID system because residents obtain motor vehicle permits through the county tax collector’s offices.
Byrd said agency officials discovered that Greenberg, who took office in January 2017 and resigned after his arrest in June 2020, conducted hundreds of searches after receiving a request for public records from the Florida Center. for Government Accountability, a government watchdog group, on the former tax collector’s use of the DAVID system.
“We realized it this week… while we were in the process of responding to this (public record) request, and we determined that it had happened,” Byrd said.
Byrd pointed out, however, that some of Greenberg’s research might have been legitimate, such as someone asking him to see if his driver’s license was still valid. Byrd said he didn’t know how many other employees in the tax collector’s office also had access to the DAVID system during Greenberg’s tenure.
Currently, the agency said it has 29 employees – all supervisors and managers – who are authorized to access the database on more than 100 employees.
JR Kroll, who took office as a tax collector last January after being elected in November 2020, said he did not have access to DAVID.
“When I first took office, I was asked if I wanted access to DAVID, and I refused,” Kroll said in a statement released by his office. “There’s just no reason why I would need to access anyone’s information or use the system for this job. If someone comes to me asking for help, we have a team of very competent professionals that I refer them to and who can help them.
On May 17, Greenberg pleaded guilty to six federal crimes, including child sex trafficking, identity theft, criminal harassment, wire fraud and conspiracy to bribe a public official. He initially faced 33 federal charges, but prosecutors dropped the remaining 27 charges against him.
According to his plea deal, Greenberg used the DAVID system to create fake driver’s licenses, including one in November 2017 with the name of a Seminole resident identified in court records as RZ but with Greenberg’s photograph.
In a federal indictment before a grand jury in August 2020, Greenberg was accused of tapping into the DAVID system to search for information about a girl aged 14 to 17 and others with whom he was engaged in “sugar daddy” relationships.
Greenberg admitted in the plea deal that he paid more than $ 70,000 over two years for sex with women and a 17-year-old girl, many of whom he recruited online.
Additionally, in September 2018, authorities said a man identified in records as EJCC walked into a tax collector’s office to surrender his old Puerto Rican driver’s license and obtain a new driver’s license. from Florida.
However, Greenberg retrieved the old Puerto Rico license from the EJCC from the scrapped ID basket before it could be shredded. He then used a badge making machine to produce a fake Puerto Rican driver’s license with EJCC’s personal information but with Greenberg’s photo, according to the deal.
Prosecutors have said in court records that the theft of licenses returned by Greenberg “continued until his last day in office.”
Byrd said employees who currently have access to DAVID should review and sign a statement outlining acceptable uses of it and other private databases containing confidential information about residents. The tax collector’s office also audits the use of the database by employees every three months.
Byrd said officials in the tax collector’s office remained “in full cooperation” with federal prosecutors.
“We don’t know why he was looking for these people,” Byrd said. “We are still in the process of carrying out this investigation. … The goal of the office is to protect innocent victims of the criminal activities of Joel (Greenberg).
Greenberg is expected to be sentenced on November 18.