Florida Tax Collector Co-Opted Public Funds for Private Blockchain Company

2020 so far has been a year rife with blockchain and cryptocurrency-related scams, many of which have been socially-engineered. However, a former tax collector in Florida has been accused of a rather unique crime.

A recent audit of Seminole County in Florida found that former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, 35, billed the Seminole Tax Collector’s Office $65,860 last year to buy supplies for his private blockchain company. The kicker, though, is that he eventually returned the money through a series of checks.

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Still, despite Greenberg’s efforts to privately right his own wrongs, the 35-year-old was indicted in June on a number of federal charges, some of which appear to be separate from the financial theft: he was charged with stalking a political opponent, using his office to create fake identification, and stealing old driver’s licenses.

Joel Greenberg allegedly returned the funds that were spent on his private company

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Joel Greenberg used the $65,860 to buy computer servers for Government Blockchain Systems LLC, a company that he started to “capitalize on blockchain technology.” The company was dissolved in June of this year.

Government Blockchain Systems LLC billed the Tax Collector’s office $65,860 on Sept. 9, 2019 for 20 servers. The next day, the public office–run by Greenberg–cut a check for that amount to Government Blockchain Systems LLC.

Oddly, the company handed a receipt back to the Tax Collector’s Office saying that only 15 of the expected 20 servers were bought: the receipt listed $33,007.90 for servers plus $7,852.10 in transportation and tariffs, totaling $40,860. The reasons for this remain unclear.

To make up the remaining $25,000 that Government Blockchain Systems LLC had originally billed the Tax Collector’s Office for, Greenberg issued a cashier’s check for $25,000 from Fairwinds Credit Union, where he holds a personal account.

Then, in an e-mail to the Tax Collector’s Office accounting supervisor on February 11th, Greenberg wrote that “40,860 will arrive tomorrow via check to make up the balance of 65,860 minus 25,000 already refunded.”

Greenberg attempted to make the Tax Collector’s Office the sole owner of Government Blockchain Systems LLC

The publication also said that it’s unclear exactly why Greenberg chose to refund the stolen funds, though Greenberg allegedly told the Sentinel in September 2019 that the private company was “owned” by the Tax Collector’s office.

And indeed, just a day after he told the Sentinel that the office owned the company, Greenberg filed paperwork to make the Tax Collector’s Office the “sole member” of the company. Greenberg and a man named Samuel Armes were listed as the managers.

At the time, Greenberg also told the Sentinel that his idea for using blockchain technology to launch a company that could help create more revenue for the office was “really badass” and the “wave of the future.”

While it remains unclear exactly how Greenberg’s interest in blockchain technology, or the digital ledger behind the Bitcoin network and other cryptocurrency, could tie into an ongoing federal criminal probe, it seems as though Greenberg had plans to integrate blockchain into the Tax Collector’s Office’s digital infrastructure.

Specifically, he said that the company would create a blockchain-based network that would migrate residents’ information from driver’s licenses into an encrypted database. The company allegedly had plans to sell that technology to other tax collectors’ offices throughout Florida.

 

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