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Deputies: Former Florida tax collector claimed to have explosive devices during arrest negotiations

Joel Greenberg's case gained national attention after reports said it's what led investigators to probe Rep. Gaetz on his alleged involvement in sex trafficking.
Credit: Seminole County Sheriff's Office

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. — Joel Greenberg told authorities he had hidden explosive devices and made threats to harm himself while negotiating his arrest with deputies last month, a recently released incident report states.

A deputy with the Seminole County Sheriff's Office said that Greenberg, the former Seminole County Tax Collector, had a warrant from the U.S. Marshals. When he arrived at his home on March 2, Greenberg initially said he'd leave his house "after a short period of time" and surrender.

However, time passed and Greenberg continued to negotiate with authorities over the phone. During that time, the deputy says Greenberg made threats to harm himself and said he would "take pills, utilize firearms, and that he had improvised explosive devices."

At one point, Greenberg opened his front door and threw a bag full of medication into the driveaway. Several hours later, Greenberg surrendered and was placed into custody, the report says.

RELATED: Ex-Gaetz staffer says FBI showed up at home, questioned him about allegations made against congressman

WKMG reports Greenberg is currently facing 33 federal charges, including unlawful use of means to identify another person, production of identification and false identification documents, aggravated identity theft, sex trafficking of a child and violating the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act.

Greenberg's arrest has gained national attention after the New York Times reported his case is what led investigators to probe Rep. Matt Gaetz about his potential involvement with women who may have been recruited for sex and given cash payments. 

The Times says investigators believe Greenberg met women on websites that "connect people who go on dates in exchange for gifts, fine dining, travel and allowances," citing three people familiar with the matter. Greenberg allegedly would introduce women to Gaetz, and he purportedly would have sex with them, the Times reported.

The Times says it received receipts from different cash payment apps that appear to show payments from both Greenberg and Gaetz to a woman and another payment from Greenberg to a second woman. The women reportedly told friends the payments were for sex, the Times said, citing people familiar with the conversations. 

RELATED: Florida Democrats demand Rep. Matt Gaetz resign amid FBI probe

Gaetz has denied all the accusations against him. And, as of Tuesday, he had not been charged with any crimes.

If you have suicidal thoughts, you are not alone. And, there is help available. Contact the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay at 211 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.

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