In brief

  • The Tax Collector for Seminole county in Florida allegedly used public funds to start a blockchain company.
  • County records show he spent $65,860 to buy computer servers for the company, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
  • He launched the company along with the head of the Florida Blockchain Business Association.

During the period he was Tax Collector for Seminole county in Florida, Joel Greenberg had grand plans for launching a blockchain company. The only problem: He allegedly used public money to fund the private venture. 

After forming Government Blockchain Systems LLC last year, Greenberg billed the public office $65,860 to buy computer servers for the company, according to the Orlando Sentinel

He eventually returned the money, sending a final check to the office in February, to make up the balance. That was the same month the Tax Collector’s office brought in Brian Bieber, a criminal defense attorney with GrayRobinson, to represent the office in a federal investigation. 

Seminole County also ordered an in-depth forensic audit to snoot around for evidence of other misdoings, and look into a number of dubious hiring decisions made by Greenberg, according to the Sentinel.

In October 2019, the Sentinel reported Greenberg had set up consultant contracts and salaries with friends and associates to the tune of $3.5 million.  

Greenberg formed Government Blockchain Systems on July 19, 2019, as part of a plan to put information from drivers licenses, property taxes and more onto a blockchain. 

He had hoped to use the technology as part of a pilot program to launch a digital ID program. But the boundaries between his private and public business immediately grew blurry. The company’s headquarters was in the same office as the Tax Collector. 

Greenberg launched the company along with Samuel Armes, who heads the Florida Blockchain Business Association. He also hired Armes to serve as the tax collector’s blockchain advocate and legislative affairs director for a salary of $30,000 a year

Greenberg, 35, stepped down from his taxman post in June after he was indicted on a federal stalking charge. According to the court documents, prosecutors say the stalking charge stems from a campaign to discredit a political opponent. 

In an earlier interview with Decrypt, Greenberg called the recent allegations against him “BS.” 

When asked what the biggest challenges were in setting up a blockchain pilot, he replied: “Well, the biggest challenge is the federal government and it’s all out assault on anyone that attempts to embrace crypto and change the way our financial system is set up.”

A cryptocurrency fan, Greenberg had also self-financed most of his re-election campaign last September, giving himself two donations totaling 30 Bitcoin, worth approximately $240,000.

Greenberg, a Republican, defeated longtime Tax Collector Ray Valdes in the Republican primary in August 2016. He went on to beat a write-in candidate in the November general election that year before taking office in January 2017.