SANFORD, Fla. — For a guy elected to collect taxes, Joel Greenberg shopped more like a soldier preparing for battle, an audit released Wednesday suggests.
What You Need To Know
- Auditors said Joel Greenberg wasted $1 million on consultants
- They determined he spent $1.65M on "unnecessary" jobs, auditors found
- They said former tax collector also spent $1.4 million on legal fees
But the body armor and other tactical gear that cost taxpayers $384,000 during Greenberg’s stint as Seminole County's tax collector were just some of the “questionable expenses” flagged by auditors.
An additional $5 million in expenditures were questioned by MSL CPAs & Advisors of Orlando in a forensic audit Seminole County requested after Greenberg’s resignation in June.
Greenberg has been charged with 14 federal crimes he allegedly committed as a public official after he took office in January 2017.
A majority of Seminole County voters elected Republican J.R. Kroll as Tax Collector on Tuesday.
Greenberg quit after federal prosecutors accused him of identity theft and posing as a victim and others in an alleged plot against a political foe.
Federal prosecutors later alleged Greenberg had a “sugar daddy" relationship with a teen girl from May 2017 and November 2017.
He has entered not-guilty pleas to all of the federal charges.
Greenberg is being monitored electronically while awaiting his trial, which is set to begin in 2021.
In a report to Seminole County Manager Nicole Guillet, auditors detailed what they described as possible "misuse of taxpayer dollars."
For example, Greenberg and an unidentified “deputy” in his office spent $384,000 using agency credit cards during weekends and after hours for body armor, unspecified weapons, ammunition, as well as a drone with thermal imaging capabilities.
“Many of the charges we observed were undocumented or appeared to be personal of nature,” auditors wrote. The charges included equipment for Greenberg’s failed “blockchain” project. Auditors could not find all of the equipment.
The report also questioned these costs:
- More than $1 million for “multiple lease agreements for five-year terms” for office space in Lake Mary when he had vacant space for administrative services in Sanford.
- More than $1.4 million for legal fees. A typical tax collector spends just $10,000 to $20,000 for those costs annually, auditors said.
- More than $1.65 million for unnecessary positions. “Most of these costs related to administrative positions, a security force that was started and dissolved, and marketing and public relations,” auditors wrote. Those jobs don’t exist anymore.
- More than $1 million was “wasted” on consultants, the report said. The consulting companies were created after Greenberg took office and dissolved after he quit.
Staffers couldn’t say what the consultants did. “We consider most of these contracts to be either excessive or unnecessary,” auditors wrote.
“The invoices were grossly inadequate documentation to support payments under these contracts,” the report said. “They contained a single dollar amount with a vague description and no breakdown of hours spent and work performed.”
Greenberg also overpaid $262,000 in public funds for property in Winter Springs for a satellite office, auditors said.
A company called Shooters Orlando, Inc. bought the land, building and office furniture for $680,000 on May 10, 2017.
The next day, Greenberg’s office paid Shooters Orlando, Inc. $810,000 for the land and another $132,000 for the office furniture and interior fixtures.
Auditor also found taxpayers lost money on a “cryptocurrency” initiative under Greenberg.
Greenberg created an entity called Government Blockchain Systems LLC. His office was the sole member. Auditors found a “prepayment of $65,860” to the entity. Greenberg said he was creating a method to accept “cryptocurrency as payments.”
Auditors said that was not needed. They couldn’t find any books or records for the entity.
“There does not appear to be a public purpose to create a county-wide platform given that there are several non-government entities that already provide the ability to collect cryptocurrency and convert the payment into U.S. dollars,” auditors wrote.
About $90,000 was spent to build and install equipment cryptocurrency mining devices from a Chinese company called Antminer in a locked room inside Greenberg’s private office.
The equipment overloaded electrical breakers. Greenberg moved the equipment to the Lake Mary branch, where it caused a power surge that started a fire.
“Damage from the fire was approximately $6,700. This was not covered by insurance due the negligence of the Tax Collector,” auditors wrote. “It cost an additional $1,200 to tear down the server room. The expenses incurred for the server room buildout, fire damage, and server room tear down were approximately $98,000.”
Auditors also questioned the $15,000 spent on for sprinkler heads at the Casselberry branch that could be operated remotely and pointed at petition gatherers
“The Tax Collector hired a company to install sprinkler heads that would point toward the petitioners that could be operated remotely,” auditors alleged.