Friend of Florida tax collector in Gaetz case pleads guilty

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A former employee of a Florida tax collector’s office whose arrest sparked an investigation into U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz has pleaded guilty to fraud and drug charges.

Court documents showed Joseph Ellicott pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and honest services and distribution of a controlled substance fraud.

Ellicott was a friend of former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg and was hired as a special projects manager in the tax collector’s office.

Greenberg is currently in jail awaiting sentencing in federal court in March. He faces up to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty last May to six federal crimes, including child sex trafficking, identity theft, harassment, wire fraud and conspiracy to bribe a public official.

FILE – Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., listens during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021.(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Court documents say Ellicott served as an intermediary for a kickback and kickback scheme between Greenberg and an outside contractor after Greenberg took office in 2017. The contractor submitted inflated bills to the tax collector’s office in exchange for paying Greenberg $6,000, according to court documents.

Court documents also said Ellicott made $5,000 over two years selling Adderall, a drug used to treat attention deficit disorder.

Each charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, although court documents suggest prosecutors will seek less time. Under the plea agreement, Ellicott is required to repay any money he illegally earned to Seminole County and cooperate with federal authorities in their ongoing investigation.

Greenberg’s plea deal with prosecutors also requires continued cooperation with an ongoing sex trafficking investigation.

His cooperation could play a role in an ongoing investigation into Gaetz, a Republican who represents much of the Florida Panhandle. Gaetz was accused of paying a 17-year-old girl for sex. He denied the allegations and previously said they were part of an extortion plot.

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Esther L. Steinbach