Former tax collector Joel Greenberg agrees to pay nearly $1.9 million in restitution, Seminole County attorney says

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Seminole County attorney said Tuesday he reached a settlement with former tax collector Joel Greenberg for payment of nearly $1.9 million in restitution for public money which was badly spent during his tenure.

“I have reached an agreement in principle, a verbal – and I emphasize verbal – agreement with Joel Greenberg’s attorney for restitution in the amount of $1,870,351,” County Attorney Bryant said. Applegate to the Commissioners.

Applegate added that he expects the county to get the money when Greenberg’s sentencing is scheduled for March in federal court in downtown Orlando or “before.”

Greenberg’s attorney, Fritz Scheller, confirmed that a settlement has been reached regarding Greenberg’s return of the money to Seminole County.

“Mr. Greenberg is cooperating with the federal and county governments for the payment of restitution,” Scheller said, without adding further details.

Scheller last July said Greenberg wanted to “make amends for his conduct.”

Since Greenberg was first arrested in June 2020 and ultimately charged with 33 federal crimes, county prosecutors have sought to recover hundreds of thousands of dollars that a county audit found were either questionable or the expense. fraudulent use of public funds by Greenberg and his friends and consultants. that he hired.

This included buying sports memorabilia — such as shoes and basketballs signed by NBA stars Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan — which he charged to an American Express card belonging to the tax collector’s office. It also included the purchase of cryptocurrency with public money and a real estate transaction for a new branch in Winter Springs, according to the audit.

Applegate has broken down the total refund amount as follows:

—$354,000 in personal expenses incurred with public service credit cards.

— $262,000 relating to the “flipping” of property of the tax collector’s office.

— $2,754 for the purchase of sports memorabilia.

— $98,000 in equipment for blockchain transactions.

—Approximately $470,000 in attorney fees spent by the Office of the Tax Collector after criminal investigations into Greenberg were launched by the US Department of Justice in early 2020.

— $685,630 for salaries and payments Greenberg made to friends and business associates he hired with public funds to work as “consultants.”

The audit, commissioned by Seminole County in the weeks after Greenberg’s first arrest, pointed to nearly a dozen consultants hired by the former tax collector to fill shadowy roles for which few or no no work product could be found.

Regarding the real estate transaction, Applegate said he could not “go into specifics about it.”

However, four months after taking office in January 2017, Greenberg bought a former bank building on State Road 434 in Winter Springs for $810,000 in public cash – hours after another company formed months earlier by Greenberg’s close friend Keith Ingersoll and associate James Adamczyk bought it for $680,000. Greenberg also gave the Ingersoll firm an additional $132,000 for office furniture and a bank safe.

The audit called the transaction “possible fraudulent activity” in the report.

“The acquisition of this property has collusion written all over it,” Dan O’Keefe, auditor at MSL CPAs & Advisors, wrote in his county-commissioned audit report.

Ingersoll and Adamczyk were indicted last November by federal prosecutors, who charged them with an unrelated, multimillion-dollar real estate fraud scheme by defrauding an East-area investor of more than $12 million. Orlando, according to a federal grand jury indictment.

Applegate said the settlement agreement came with Greenberg after several months of discussions with Scheller; outside county attorney Kara Wick of Foley & Lardner; the U.S. Attorney’s Office and current tax collector JR Kroll.

“Everyone has been open and cooperative over these long months and many, many meetings and phone calls,” Applegate said.

He added that the next step is for the county to recover the full amount.

“I can assure you that if this does not happen, then I will ask the commission at a public meeting to continue to employ the law firm Foley & Lardner to prosecute every individual and entity possible to raise these funds” , said Applegate. .

Greenberg is currently being held in the Orange County Jail pending sentencing in federal court, which is expected in March.

He pleaded guilty last May to six counts, including child sex trafficking, identity theft, harassment, wire fraud, creating false driver’s licenses and conspiracy to bribe a public official. As part of his plea deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Greenberg agreed to forfeit $654,800 in assets he obtained through his public position as a tax collector.

According to state financial disclosure forms Greenberg filed while in office, he listed his value at the end of 2019 at nearly $5.9 million. This included $5.5 million in shares in the family business AWG Inc. and $276,000 in bank accounts. He also made nearly $400,000 in income from the family business in 2019, according to the financial report.

He and his wife, Abby Greenberg, bought a home in Heathrow for $600,000 in 2019, county records show. Abby Greenberg filed for divorce last October, according to court records.

The Seminole Commissioners, at Applegate’s request, did not comment on the attorney’s announcement.

“There are still ongoing investigations, and there may be more on the way,” Applegate said.

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Esther L. Steinbach