ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A Florida tax collector created fake social media accounts that falsely suggested a political opponent favored white supremacy and had engaged in sexual misconduct with a student at a school where he teaches, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.
Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg faces federal counts of stalking and unlawful use of the identity of another person, according to an indictment unsealed Tuesday in federal court in Orlando.
The indictment said Greenberg mailed fake letters to his opponent's school signed by a nonexistent “very concerned student" who alleged the opponent had engaged in sexual misconduct with another student.
Greenberg, 35, also used his opponent's name and photo to create a fake Twitter account on which he posted statements in favor of white supremacy, the indictment said. It also alleges that he created a fake Facebook account in which he posed as a “very concerned teacher” who repeated the allegation about sexual misconduct with the student.
“There’s probably no more terrible thing you can do than accuse someone who works at a school of sexual misconduct,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg said at a hearing Tuesday, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Prosecutors didn’t name Greenberg's opponent in court filings or during a hearing, but Greenberg’s defense lawyer confirmed in court that the person is running against him in the Republican primary.
Greenberg was released from federal custody shortly after the hearing. Defense attorney Vincent Citro said Greenberg denies the charges.
“We look forward to going to trial. The government will not be able to prove its case,” Citro said. “They made a federal case out of misusing Twitter and this case doesn’t belong in federal court.”
Greenberg was criticized by Muslim leaders and Democrats in 2018 when he posted on his personal Facebook page, “Very simple question...Name just ONE society in the developed world that has benefited in ANY WAY from the introduction of more Muslims. Just one. Asking for a friend.” At the time, Greenberg said he was asking the question on behalf of radio host Neil Boortz, who had posted a similar question.
Greenberg was elected to office in the Orlando suburb in 2016.