The Walton Sun, Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.
PENSACOLA — Stephen Alford, a prominent Fort Walton Beach businessman with a checkered legal history, has been indicted on federal charges stemming from alleged efforts to extort $25 million.
A press release announcing the indictment, which doesn’t name the victim, states Alford offered “to obtain a presidential pardon for a family member” of his victim.
Both former state Sen. Don Gaetz and his son, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, have claimed that Alford was among a group of people who tried to extort millions of dollars from their family.
According to a version of events provided first by Matt Gaetz, R- Fort Walton Beach, Pensacola attorney David McGee and others attempted to extort $25 million from the Gaetz family, and Don Gaetz, a Niceville resident, wore a wire to a meeting to discuss a $5.4 million down payment to allow federal agents to gather evidence about the conspiracy.
Don Gaetz on Tuesday afternoon referred comment to his attorney, Jeff Nieman, who was not available.
In an April interview, Alford, a twice-convicted felon, did not deny approaching the wealthy Gaetz family for money. He said he, McGee and others were attempting to work through the Gaetzes to rescue Robert Levinson, a CIA operative who disappeared in 2007 and is believed to have been kidnapped by agents of the government of Iran.
At the time the Gaetz family made public the alleged extortion effort, it had just been announced that Matt Gaetz had become subject of another federal investigation, this one into whether he had traveled with and had sex with a 17-year-old girl and that he paid for sex with other women.
Bob Kent, a former Air Force intelligence officer and an alleged Alford co-conspirator, spoke to CNN and said of Congressman Gaetz, “If the allegations are true, he’s in need of some goodwill from the government.”
“I’m in need of a sponsor to fund the rescue project,” Kent continued. “There is no threat. I don’t have anything to do with the (sexual allegations) indictment. I don’t have anything to do with the investigation into Matt Gaetz.”
Charging documents in the case against Alford say he “falsely reported” to a person identified only as D.G. “that he would get that pardon” for D.G.’s family member and “Take D.G. by the hand to see the president of the United States.”
Alford, 62, of Fort Walton Beach, was arrested Tuesday on charges of wire fraud and the attempted prevention of seizure of an electronic device, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District Florida. The arrest followed the handing down of a grand jury indictment.
Alford is being held in the custody of the United States Marshals Service and faces up to 25 years imprisonment if convicted, the news release said.
Alford spoke to the Northwest Florida Daily News during the first week of April and acknowledged he had been interviewed by the FBI. The agent gave him an opportunity to tell his side of the extortion story, which Gaetz first chronicled in a Fox News interview with Tucker Carlson.
The alleged extortion attempt came eight months after the Department of Justice opened an investigation into sex trafficking allegations involving Joel Greenberg, the former Seminole County tax collector and a Matt Gaetz associate.
Greenberg pleaded guilty in May to numerous crimes as part of a plea deal to cooperate with prosecutors, including one that in 2017 he had engaged in the sex trafficking of a 17-year-old girl.
No charges have been brought against Matt Gaetz, who has denied the allegations.
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