Aug 31, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Florida man faces fraud charges over alleged Gaetz family extortion plot

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) addresses supporters at a Matt Gaetz Florida Man Freedom Tour event at the Hilton Melbourne Beach.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) addresses supporters at Melbourne Beach, Florida, in July. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A Florida man was accused Tuesday of trying to extort $25 million from Don Gaetz, the father of Rep. Matt Gaetz, in an alleged scheme linked to a federal sex trafficking investigation into the Republican congressman.

Driving the news: The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida announced Tuesday that Stephen Alford was indicted by a federal grand jury over an alleged scheme "to obtain money based upon false promises or guarantees he made" to Don Gaetz that he "could deliver a Presidential Pardon for a family member."

Of note: Matt Gaetz, who hasn't been charged with any crimes over the federal investigation, wasn't named in the indictment.

  • But he told Axios' Jonathan Swan in March that the sexual misconduct allegations leveled against him were false and "rooted in an extortion effort" against his family for $25 million "in exchange for making this case go away."

Details: Alford, a 62-year-old real estate developer from Fort Walton Beach, was indicted on counts of wire fraud and the attempted prevention of an electronic device’s seizure after his arrest on Tuesday.

  • Prosecutors allege in a newly unsealed indictment that Alford tried in March and April this year to get Don Gaetz, a former Florida State Senate president, to pay the money in exchange for a pardon in a scheme called "Project Homecoming."
  • The money allegedly was to be used to help rescue Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who disappeared in Iran in 2007, according to the indictment.

What they're saying: Gaetz tweeted after the Justice Department announced Alford's arrest that the charges showed his extortion claims were right.

  • "They tried to extort me on a pile of lies," he said. "Alford wasn't acting alone — he had help from people with strong ties to the federal government. There is much more to this attempt to destroy me."
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