Need a break from Donald Trump’s impeachment debacle? Strap yourself in for some high-octane Florida shenanigans. Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg reportedly asked Brent Tyler, a network security specialist, to hack the county’s computer network and demand a ransom of $1 million … well, actually just half that amount. This was back in 2017 when $500,000 was a lot of money.
The accusations recently emerged from Florida Department of Law Enforcement records. Tyler claimed at the time that Greenberg frequently invited him to his office, cranked up the music or the TV news because his cone of silence was in the shop, and casually asked him to drop a malware bomb on the network. The ransom would be paid in BItcoin, and Greenberg would “tumble” the cryptocurrency (my favorite 1980s dance track) through multiple Bitcoin wallets so no one could trace its origin. Greenberg and Tyler would then split the $500,000 and presumably live comfortably in San Francisco for about three months. (Greenberg’s office was actually the first US government agency to accept Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash as payment for various services starting the summer of 2018.)
Greenberg allegedly wasn’t in this just for the money. He was also motivated by pettiness. Greenberg wanted to “get back” at Seminole Commissioner Brenda Carey for giving him “a hard time.” Tyler, the son of Greenberg’s former operations officer, provided sworn testimony to FDLE agents but they didn’t move forward with the case because they concluded it was just his word against Greenberg’s. Greenberg denied everything in an email statement last week.
I never asked Mr. Tyler to do that or anything like that. If I knew he did anything like that, I would have immediately reported it to law enforcement.
Curiously, Greenberg didn’t contact law enforcement when Tyler threatened to “shoot up the tax collector’s office,” which Greenberg provided as proof that Tyler lacked credibility. This in fact only proves that Tyler is the type of person you might ask to join you in the commission of a felony.
There’s no evidence Tyler ever made the hacking program. More than a year later, Greenberg reportedly had Tyler’s mother and girlfriend, who also worked in the office, grilled by lawyers to determine if Tyler had squealed. He fired them both. Greenberg’s office settled with Tyler’s girlfriend for $40,000 and is in negotiations over a settlement for Tyler’s mother. It’s a real family affair.
Greenberg is an ongoing source of embarrassment for Florida, which is saying something. He’s used the vast powers of his position to try to beat a speeding ticket. He ran a campaign of “right-wing frugal efficiency” but has all but set taxpayer money on fire while in office. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Greenberg has given $3.5 million in high-paying jobs and “consulting contracts.” The lucky recipients include his friends and even his wedding groomsmen. He’s posted anti-Muslim screeds on his Facebook page, and a Muslim woman he fired sued him for discrimination in 2018. He was willingly photographed with Roger Stone and Milo Yiannopoulos.
It’s really only a matter of time before Greenberg winds up working for Donald Trump. It’s another reason we need to make sure there’s no Trump administration next year.