As the federal investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) reportedly continues, there’s been a related charge in Pensacola, Florida: a man who allegedly tried to turn the Gaetz investigation into a personal payday.
Federal prosecutors for the Northern District of Florida allege in an indictment unsealed on Tuesday that panhandle real estate developer Stephen Alford orchestrated a $25 million fraud scheme related to the probe.
After news first broke of the investigation in March, Gaetz parried allegations reported in the New York Times that he had paid for a minor to cross state lines for sex with a bizarre Tucker Carlson appearance. On the show, Gaetz made cryptic reference to an extortion plot with him at the center, saying that his father, Don Gaetz, had been asked to “wear a wire.”
For Gaetz, it was a way to throw up chaff amid a mushrooming scandal involving lurid allegations of underage sex.
But prosecutors now allege that Alford contacted Don Gaetz, telling him that a $25 million investment in securing the freedom of long-missing former FBI agent Robert Levinson would result in Matt Gaetz receiving a presidential pardon.
It’s not clear from the indictment how Alford allegedly learned of the Gaetz investigation; the charging document, which uses the initial D.G. to refer to a person who appears to be Don Gaetz, describes the probe as a “purported ‘current federal investigation.'”
Gaetz has strenuously denied the allegations of involvement in sex trafficking. A buddy of his, former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg, agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in May.
The Alford indictment, filed on Aug. 18 but only unsealed on Tuesday, alleges that Alford told Don Gaetz that he would escort him “by hand” to the president to pardon his son, assuming they managed to extract Levinson.
He purportedly had Don Gaetz’s phone number, and allegedly used it to contact him about the exchange while hinting that he had knowledge of the younger Gaetz’s potential legal problems.
It’s not clear how Alford obtained the elder Gaetz’s phone number.
Alford is charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of attempted prevention of seizure of an electronic device, after he allegedly tried to delay the investigation by destroying an iPhone 12 Max.