Florida county tax collector hit with 15-month prison sentence in bizarre case

A Florida county tax collector was on the receiving end of a 15-month prison sentence in a case that, at one point, involved Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL).

According to the Washington Examiner, a man called Joe Ellicot, who served as a Seminole County tax collector, was sentenced “after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and honest services fraud and one count of distribution of a controlled substance in February.”

The outlet added: “Ellicott, nicknamed ‘Big Joe,’ was close friends with former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, who pleaded guilty to charges of sex trafficking of a child, illegally producing a false identification document, aggravated identity theft, wire fraud, stalking, and conspiracy in May 2021.”

The Gaetz connection to the case was through Greenberg, who was once considered one of the Florida Republican’s top allies.

The controversy

Gaetz was involved in the case when the DOJ announced that the lawmaker was “accused of being involved in a sex-trafficking operation that allegedly paid women to cross state lines for sex, including an instance with a 17-year-old.”

Ultimately, the Justice Department decided against pursuing charges against Gaetz, citing ongoing credibility issues with two of the main witnesses in the case.

The Examiner explained:

The recommendation is the latest development of the DOJ’s investigation that opened in late 2020 seeking to determine whether Gaetz had paid women to travel for sex, whether the congressman had paid for sex at all, and whether he had sex with a minor.

Gaetz, to this day, has strongly denied the allegations and continues to profess his innocence.

The Justice Department added that while they won’t pursue charges now, that could hypothetically change if new witnesses or evidence emerges that would give prosecutors the ability to charge him.

The pardon controversy

When news broke of the investigation into Gaetz, a report also emerged that claimed Gaetz had asked former President Donald Trump for a preemptive pardon.

Gaetz, and his office, denied the report. The controversy even sparked a reply from the former president himself, who said at the time, “Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon.”

As for Ellicot, he apologized to Floridians and to his family in a statement during his sentencing, saying, “I not only failed my family but the hundreds of thousands of taxpayers of Seminole County. For that, I am so sorry.”