ORLANDO, Fla. — The former tax collector for Seminole County, Joel Greenberg, was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Thursday. He found out his fate in a courtroom in the Middle District of Florida in the second day of sentencing proceedings.
Greenberg, who pleaded guilty to six federal charges, some including sex trafficking of a minor, will get 10 years of supervised release. After prison, he will be registered as a sex offender for life.
During a two-minute statement to the court, Greenberg said in a loud, clear voice that he is willing to accept any punishment and he apologized to the parents, children, his ex-wife and the Seminole County taxpayers.
"I know that I can never make up for what I have done," he apologized as he showed no emotion.
His parents did not attend the hearing and wrote him out of their will.
No appeal is planned, Greenberg's attorney told reporters outside of the courthouse after sentencing.
The plea deal Greenberg made with federal prosecutors says Greenberg can't appeal if the sentence stayed within the guidelines. It did. The 11-year sentence was at the upper end of the guidelines but did not exceed them, the attorney said.
U.S. Senior District Judge Gregory Presnell said he’s never experienced a case like this in his 22 years of experience, adding that he’s never seen a defendant who did so many different types of crimes in a relatively short period of time.
Earlier, both the prosecution and defense came to an agreement to recommend a sentence of 111 to 132 months in prison, which equates to roughly nine to 11 years.
On Thursday, the judge said there was justification for a sentence above the recommended guidelines. According to his attorney, Greenberg was concerned about the judge doing that.
Greenberg pleaded guilty to six federal charges back in May 2021, two of which carry mandatory minimum sentences. Some of the federal crimes included sex trafficking of a minor, identity theft, stalking, wire fraud and conspiracy to bribe a public official. Prosecutors said he had paid at least one underage girl to have sex with him and other men.
The charge of sex trafficking of a child has a 10-year minimum and the charge of aggravated identity theft has a two-year minimum.
Roger B. Handberg, the U.S. attorney for the federal district that includes Orlando, said in court that Greenberg's criminal activity began on his first day in office in January 2017.
That is when Greenberg fabricated his first fake driver's license. It had Greenberg's photo and another person's address. It was one of two fake licenses Greenberg kept in his wallet, Handberg said.
During Wednesday’s proceedings, Presnell said he wanted to ensure that the prosecution wasn’t “stacking charges” incorrectly and in a way that would give Greenberg a lighter-than-necessary sentence.
Jonathan Rose, an Orlando-based trial attorney not affiliated with the Greenberg case, told Spectrum News 13 on Wednesday that the judge has a fair amount of sway over sentencing in cases like this.
“The final determination of what the sentence is, is entirely up to the judge. The plea agreement between Mr. Greenberg and the government is really just a set of recommendations between the two,” Rose said.
“And while the court did grant the downward departure due to his substantial assistance, the court has the ability to either very upward or very downward, depending on whether he thinks there’s significant mitigating information, meaning he should be sentenced to lower sentence or aggravating information, in this case, about the facts of the crimes that Greenberg committed that would cause him to sentence him above the required sentencing range.”
Greenberg’s attorney, Fritz Scheller, said that Greenberg provided significant cooperation on multiple other cases.
On Wednesday, Presnell noted that Greenberg offered consultation to federal prosecutors 15 times and also provided more than 35 emails with notable information. He also offered information about 24 other individuals.
Scheller said in court that two more indictments are expected within the next month or so. That’s after connected investigations led to the guilty pleas of three other individuals as well.
Court proceedings resumed at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday.