Posted on

Joel Greenberg used private state database to look up hundreds of people’s personal info, tax office says

Joel Greenberg, the former Seminole County tax collector who pleaded guilty in May to identity theft, stalking and sex trafficking, used his access to a state database through his public position to look up the personal information of hundreds of people during his time in office, officials said Wednesday.

Tax Collector’s Office officials provided few other details and did not reveal the names of the roughly 300 people Greenberg searched for using the Driver and Vehicle Information Database, known as DAVID, or confirm whether those people will be notified.

“We’re still working on determining the people searched,” said Alan Byrd, a spokesperson for the Tax Collector’s Office said. “This was an activity by the former tax collector that was not condoned by the DAVID system, and we are working to make sure that this sort of activity does not happen again.”

Seminole Commissioner Jay Zembower, who has called for the county commission to have more oversight of the Tax Collector’s Office, said he was outraged by the latest revelation of Greenberg’s apparent abuse of his office.

“I’m not surprised for one single moment,” Zembower said. “But it causes me great concern for those individuals, who for whatever purpose or reason, he [Greenberg] was asking for their personal information.”

The DAVID system is used by criminal justice and law enforcement officials — including police officers and deputy sheriffs while on patrol — to quickly access a person’s information, including Social Security number, date of birth, addresses, signatures, and medical and disability information.

Greenberg and his employees had access to the DAVID system because residents obtain motor vehicle licenses through the county’s Tax Collector’s offices.

Byrd said agency officials discovered that Greenberg, who took office in January 2017 and resigned after his arrest in June 2020, made the hundreds of searches after receiving a public records request from the Florida Center for Government Accountability, a government watchdog group, about the former tax collector’s use of the DAVID system.

“We realized it this week… as we were in the process of fulfilling that [public records] request, and we determined that this had happened,” Byrd said.

Byrd pointed out, however, that some of Greenberg’s searches could have been legitimate, such as someone asking him to see if their driver’s license was still valid. Byrd said he did not know how many other employees at the Tax Collector’s Office also had access to the DAVID system during Greenberg’s tenure.

Currently, the agency said it has 29 employees — all supervisors and managers — that are allowed access to the database out of the more than 100 employees.

Joel Greenberg boasted of plan to ‘control’ Orange sheriff’s office through outsider candidate

J.R. Kroll, who took office as tax collector last January after being elected in November 2020, said he does not have access to DAVID.

“When I first took office, I was asked if I wanted DAVID access, and I declined,” Kroll said in a statement released by his office. “There is simply no reason why I would need to access anyone’s information or use the system at all in the scope of this job. If someone comes to me for assistance, we have a very capable team of professionals who I refer them to who can help them.”

On May 17, Greenberg pleaded guilty to six federal crimes, including sex trafficking of a child, identity theft, stalking, wire fraud and conspiracy to bribe a public official. He originally faced 33 federal charges, but prosecutors dropped the other 27 counts filed against him.

Read more here.