Seminole tax collector Joel Greenberg accused of plotting Bitcoin ransom scheme against his own office

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PHOTO VIA SEMINOLE COUNTY TAX COLLECTOR
  • Photo via Seminole County Tax Collector
More like dumb collector, amirite, Seminole County?

Boy, it's been a rough go for the county tax office.

In 2016, Seminole County finally ditched the outdated and oddly profitable stylings of longtime tax collector Ray Valdes – who had faced claims of using a gay slur, running a technologically retrograde operation, and allowing his family to buy items at auction previously confiscated for not paying taxes to his tax office – and brought in Joel Greenburg, the youngish buck who was ostensibly a breath of efficient, above-board fresh air.

Only, Greenberg has turned out to be a Muslim-hating bigot and bully who burns through taxpayer money on things like contracts for his buddies and a system for Seminole residents to pay county bills with Bitcoin.



Now comes word of a particularly shocking accusation, this time from Florida Department of Law Enforcement records. And, wouldn't ya know it? – it has to do with Bitcoin. An FDLE report says Greenberg in 2017 asked a friend, Brent Tyler, to hack the county's computer network and demand a $500,000 Bitcoin ransom for its release, which they would then split.

Greenberg denies ever asking this of the son of his then-operations chief, whom Greenberg hired on contract for county network security work, Orlando Sentinel reports. Greenberg said he questions Tyler's credibility and accused Tyler of threatening to shoot up the tax collector's office and of being fired after only a month on contract with the state attorney's office.

Tyler never made the hacking program and was cleared of any attack on county computers, and neither of Greenberg's digs at Tyler could be corroborated. Tyler told FDLE agents these claims back in 2017, but the agency didn't move forward with the accusation because it was Tyler's word against Greenberg's.

Tyler, who has also worked for the city of Winter Park, told the FDLE that Greenberg asked him multiple times – each in Greenberg's office while music or the news was cranked up – to lock up county computers with a malware hack that would only let up after a ransom of half a million dollars was paid in Bitcoin. The Bitcoin funds, Tyler testified, would be "tumbled," which is the maneuver of mixing money from multiple accounts so that the original source of funds is untraceable.

Tyler told investigators that Greenberg's incentive for attacking the county network and robbing taxpayers of a cool half-mil was to "get back" at Seminole Commissioner Brenda Carey for giving Greenberg "a hard time." Tyler's claims of Greenberg's pettiness didn't stop there; Tyler also said he provided Greenberg with a keystroke-logging program to track tax collector office employees' every move on office time.

Over a year after Tyler left Greenberg's office, in August, Greenberg called Tyler's mom and girlfriend – both of whom also worked for the tax collector – to his office to be grilled by lawyers on the tax collector's taxpayer-backed payroll. They were both fired a couple of days later. A little after that, Greenberg's office forked over $40,000 in a settlement with Tyler's girlfriend. Tyler's mother is presently in negotiations over the size of her settlement.

Greenberg could roast a Florida boar over the taxpayer cash he's burned. There is no trifle beneath him; he once turned on the flashing lights of a county car to pull over and scold a woman for speeding only to later, when pulled over himself, attempt to use the stature of his office to get out of a speeding ticket. He ran his campaign on the promises of right-wing frugal efficiency and the swamp-draining ideals of only serving one term, yet, in office, Greenberg spends at levels that far exceed other tax collectors and has (of course) announced he's running for another term.

Lauren Ritchie, the Sentinel columnist who unearthed the $3.5 million in lucrative job contracts Greenberg gave to friends and wedding groomsmen, called Greenberg's credibility "shaky at best."

Greenberg's credibility has long been established as crumbling quicksand that engulfs any serious work from being possibly conducted at Seminole County's tax collector's office. This latest allegation is simply more sand for the quickening.

Greenberg, who makes $150,000 himself as tax collector, is up for re-election this November.

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