A Fort Walton man accused by U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) of attempting to extort $25 million from the Gaetz family was indicted yesterday.
Stephen Alford, 62, was indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday for charges of wire fraud and the attempted prevention of seizure of an electronic device.
According to Jason R. Coody, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, the indictment alleges that, between March 16, and April 7, 2021, Alford engaged in a scheme to defraud an unnamed victim out of $25 million. In the indictment, Alford is alleged to have been involved in a scheme to obtain money based upon false promises or guarantees he made to the victim that Alford could deliver a Presidential Pardon for a family member of the victim.
Alford was arrested following the indictment Tuesday and made his initial appearance in federal court to face the charges. He faces up to 25 years imprisonment on the charged crimes.
The indictment may give some credence to allegations made by Gaetz last March during what Fox’s Tucker Carlson called “one of the weirdest interviews” he’s ever conducted. During the Carlson interview, Gaetz denied the scandalous allegations which were circulating at the time and claimed they were part of an extortion plot.
For months, national media outlets reported that Gaetz is under federal investigation over a rumored relationship with the same young woman that Joel Greenberg, a former Seminole County tax collector and a Gaetz associate, was indicted for having sex with when she 17 years old. But while speculation about Gaetz’s involvement with the woman has been rampant, no evidence has emerged that places Gaetz with her at the time she was a minor.
Greenberg, however, pleaded guilty in May to numerous crimes, including that in 2017 he had engaged in the sex trafficking of a 17-year-old girl, as part of a plea deal to cooperate with prosecutors. To date, Gaetz has not been charged with anything.
In an April interview with the Northwest Florida Daily News, Alford, who was convicted twice previously for fraud and extortion, admitted approaching the wealthy Gaetz family for money. He said he along with a Pensacola attorney, David McGee, and a former Air Force intelligence officer, Bob Kent 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.
According to the article, 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 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. To date, Gaetz has not been charged with anything.
In the Northwest Florida Daily News story, Alford said he was interviewed by federal officers.
“The FBI’s questions related to the allegation Congressman Gaetz had thrown out that we were trying to extort him. They were only interested in the allegations Congressman Gaetz had made, and I gave them all the information I have,” Alford said. “I answered to the best of my ability. I have nothing to hide.”
It was reported, in interviews on CNN and a SiriusXM show, Kent said the request for $25 million was not an extortion attempt and the allegations about the DOJ investigation into Gaetz was thrown in as a “teaser.”
“If the allegations are true, he’s in need of some goodwill from the government,” Kent said on CNN. “I’m in need of a sponsor to fund the rescue project. … 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.”
Following the announcement of the indictment, Gaetz’s office released the following statement:
“Five months ago today Rep. Gaetz asserted — after baseless allegations about him — that he was the victim of an extortion attempt. One of the men involved in that attempt, Stephen Alford, was today indicted. But Alford wasn’t acting alone, and former DOJ official David McGee as well as State Dept contractor Bob Kent must now also face justice. The release of the Alford tapes will further exculpate Rep. Gaetz and implicate those with long-standing links to the federal government.”