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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."

Go deeper

Virginia energy giant quietly boosts McAuliffe

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks during a campaign rally on Oct. 15 in Henrico, Virginia. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe has sworn off money from the Richmond company Dominion Energy. But the utility has found more subtle ways to back McAuliffe's gubernatorial bid, records show.

Driving the news: Dominion's political action committee has donated $200,000 to a murky political group called Accountability Virginia PAC, which has been running ads attacking Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin.

3 hours ago - Technology

Race and technology in America

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The technology industry is famously determined to change the world — but its efforts to diversify its workforce and remove bias from its products haven't changed nearly enough.

Biden: "Being a cop today is one hell of a lot harder than it's ever been"

President Biden speaks during the 40th Annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service at the U.S Capitolon Oct. 16. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden speaking at the U.S. Capitol on Saturday honored members of law enforcement who died in the line of duty in 2019 and 2021 and saluted those who are currently serving.

Driving the news: "We expect everything of you, and it's beyond the capacity of anyone to meet the total expectations. Being a cop today is one hell of a lot harder than it's ever been," Biden said.

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