ORLANDO — Former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg claimed to have explosive devices and threatened to harm himself while negotiating his surrender with deputy sheriffs in early March, which delayed for hours his arrest for violating his bond conditions, newly released records state.
In an incident report, Seminole County Deputy Jerome Grunat wrote that when he arrived at Greenberg’s home in Heathrow about 9:20 p.m. on March 2, the former county tax collector initially said via phone that he would exit his home “after a short period of time,” but that time came and went.
During subsequent phone negotiations, Greenberg made suicidal comments, “stating at various times that he would take pills, utilize firearms, and that he had improvised explosive devices,” Grunat wrote.
The deputy described erratic behavior by Greenberg, who at one point opened his front door, threw a bag of medication onto the driveway, then retreated back inside, according to the report. Greenberg later surrendered after “several hours of negotiation,” the report said.
The document, which was first reported by WFTV-TV, sheds new light on Greenberg’s behavior at the time of his arrest.
Though he was taken to a hospital for medical evaluation after making suicide threats, the Sheriff’s Office confirmed he was not placed under Florida’s Baker Act, which allows for a person who is determined to be a threat to themselves or others to be temporarily admitted for mental health assessment.
After being evaluated, Greenberg was booked into the Seminole County jail, agency spokesperson Kim Cannaday confirmed.
Asked whether Greenberg’s home was searched for explosive devices or other weapons, Cannaday said deputies were only there to assist U.S. Marshals with taking Greenberg into custody. The report did not indicate that Greenberg had threatened anyone.
The U.S. Marshals Office of Public Affairs did not immediately return a call seeking more information.
Greenberg is currently in the Orange County Jail as he awaits trial on 33 federal charges, including stalking, identity theft, wire fraud, bribery, theft of government property, conspiracy to bribe a public official, creating fake IDs and sex trafficking of a minor.
The case has drawn national attention after it was reported last week by The New York Times that the investigation of Greenberg had led federal authorities to also target U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican and prominent ally of former President Donald Trump, for potential sex trafficking offenses. Gaetz denies all wrongdoing.
Greenberg was initially released on bond after his arrest in June but was jailed in early March after authorities said he violated his conditions of release by driving to South Florida to look for his wife.
Greenberg left his Heathrow home just before 5 a.m. Feb. 28 and drove to his mother-in-law’s condo in Jupiter in search of Abby Greenberg, according to a police report. At the time, he was under an 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and not allowed to travel outside the Middle District of Florida, which stretches across the state from the Fort Myers area to Jacksonville.
His mother-in-law later called police to say that Greenberg had shown up uninvited and asked that he be removed, the report said.
Abby Greenberg, who was not at her mother’s home at the time, told police that she left the couple’s Seminole County home to “take a break from the stressful situation with Joel,” the report said. She added that Greenberg tracked her using her Snapchat social media account.
A background check revealed to Jupiter police that Greenberg was under federal probation. An officer didn’t arrest Greenberg on the spot, however, because he was unable to reach Greenberg’s probation officer to determine if he was allowed to travel to Jupiter.
The documents released by the Sheriff’s Office Tuesday also revealed another brush with law enforcement by Joel Greenberg, this one in November.
Deputies were called to a disturbance at the couple’s home late Nov. 13, a report states, after an argument between them in which Joel Greenberg falsely accused his wife of assaulting him. Home security footage showed that she had not hit him, the report said.
Greenberg was reportedly calm while interacting with deputies and said he’d considered calling Seminole Sheriff Dennis Lemma about the incident but decided against it. Deputies determined no crime had occurred.