By Paula Reid and Tierney Sneed, CNN
The Justice Department on Tuesday unveiled a grand jury indictment against a Florida man for his alleged role in a scheme to defraud the family of Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz out of $25 million.
Stephen Alford, 62, of Fort Walton Beach, faces charges including wire fraud, according to the Justice Department. The congressman is not identified by name in the indictment, but a source familiar with the matter says this case stems from a scheme targeting the Gaetz family.
CNN has reported that federal investigators are examining whether Gaetz broke federal sex trafficking, prostitution and public corruption laws and whether he had sex with a minor who was 17 at the time. CNN also has reported that the Justice Department is investigating potential obstruction of justice connected to the ongoing probe.
Gaetz has not been charged and denies any wrongdoing.
“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 Justice Department said in a statement.
CNN is reaching out to Alford for comment. He faces up to 25 years in prison.
Alford allegedly presented Gaetz’s father, Don Gaetz, with a proposal, according to court documents and the source familiar with the matter. Alford allegedly offered to help the congressman secure a Presidential pardon if his father contributed $25 million to a fund to help locate and secure the release of someone referred to as R.L in court documents.
It has been previously reported that Don Gaetz was asked to fund an effort to locate Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent kidnapped in Iran.
“Five months ago today, Rep. Gaetz asserted — after baseless allegations about him — that he was the victim of an extortion attempt,” said Gaetz spokesman Harlan Hill. “One of the men involved in that attempt, Stephen Alford, was today indicted.”
When that investigation became public knowledge through media reports in March, Gaetz told Tucker Carlson on Fox News that he was the victim of an extortion plot.
“What is happening is an extortion of me and my family,” he said, explaining that his got a text message “demanding a meeting wherein a person demanded $25 million in exchange for making horrible sex trafficking allegations against me go away.”
The details of the allegations against Alford track with how Gaetz has described the plot in public media appearances.
The indictment alleged that Alford helped orchestrate outreach from a person identified as “Person A” to a person dubbed “D.G.,” who was presented an offer of assistance in securing a presidential pardon for a family member of D.G. Alford himself eventually engaged with D.G., according to the indictment, in an in-person meeting and over texts. Alford is also alleged to have crafted a letter titled “Project Homecoming” laying out the scheme. The letter, according to the indictment, called for $25,000,000 to be transferred to the account of an unidentified law firm. According to the indictment, the letter said that Alford’s team had been “assured by the President” that the President will “strongly consider” a “Presidential pardon” or an instruction to the Justice Department that it terminate its investigations into the family member.
The indictment was handed down earlier this month by a grand jury in the Northern District of Florida. “Alford is currently being held in the custody of the United States Marshals Service,” the Justice Department said in its press release.
The federal investigation of Gaetz began in the closing months of the Trump-era Justice Department under then-Attorney General William Barr and was initially part of a broader probe into trafficking allegations against another Florida politician, Joel Greenberg.
Greenberg is awaiting sentencing after admitting to six federal charges, including that he knowingly solicited and paid the 17-year-old for sex. He remains in jail.
Greenberg was never charged with obstructing justice, but in his plea agreement he admitted to contacting the 17-year-old after learning in 2020 that his sexual relationship with her was under investigation and asking her “for help in making sure that their stories would line up, because he knew that his commercial sex acts with her were illegal.”
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