A Fort Walton Beach man, accused by U.S. Rep Matt Gaetz of extortion, was indicted Tuesday after the Justice Department said he promised a presidential pardon to someone in exchange for millions of dollars.
Stephen M. Alford was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of wire fraud and the attempted prevention of seizure of an electronic device. The 62-year-old Fort Walton Beach resident faces up to 25 years in prison.
Alford attempted to defraud an unnamed victim of $25 million between March and April, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“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,” the department said in a press release.
Notably, the indictment marks the latest development into the ongoing investigation of the Panhandle Congressman.
Gaetz, who is under investigation in the sex trafficking of a 17-year-old, said in March Alford offered him a presidential pardon in exchange for cash. Alford further promised to make the investigation go away and guaranteed Gaetz would serve no jail time.
Gaetz, alongside his father, reported the proposal and cooperated with federal authorities. At one point, Gaetz said, his father — former state Sen. Don Gaetz — wore a wire as part of the FBI investigation.
The indictment doesn’t mention Gaetz or his father by name. It does, however, refer to “Family Member A” and “D.G.”
After telling D.G. he negotiated the payment down to $15.5 million, “Alford falsely represented that he ‘will get that pardon’ for Family Member A, and falsely promised D.G. that Alford would take D.G. ‘by the hand to see the President of the United States,'” the indictment reads.
“Alford also falsely promised D.G. that ‘I will assure you that [Family Member A] will get off his problems’ and that Alford could ‘guarantee’ Family Member A would not go to prison if D.G. helped Alford.”
Gaetz has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in the sex trafficking investigation.
“Over the past several weeks my family and I have been victims of an organized criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name,” Gaetz tweeted.
Alford is in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.
In a tweet Tuesday, Gaetz called on the arrest of others who participated in the alleged extortion scheme.
“Alford was indicted today,” Gaetz wrote. “Those he was working with to extort me on a pile of lies should be next.”
Notably, a plan to rescue a missing federal agent is reportedly at the center of Alford’s extortion scheme. The former FBI agent, Robert Levinson, disappeared from the Iranian island of Kish in 2007 while trying to cultivate an informant for the CIA. Levinson, of Coral Springs, is believed to have died in Iranian custody.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys David L. Goldberg and Lazaro P. Fields will prosecute the case in the Northern District of Florida.