Stephen Alford: Florida man tried to extort $25M from Matt Gaetz for Trump pardon

Alford promised presidential pardon for money in Gaetz's sex trafficking scandal, caught and charged with wire fraud


                            Stephen Alford: Florida man tried to extort $25M from Matt Gaetz for Trump pardon
Florida Rep Matt Gaetz (Drew Angerer/Getty Images) with an insert of Stephen Alford (Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office)

A federal indictment unsealed on August 31 names Stephen Alford as the person responsible for attempting to scam Florida Rep Matt Gaetz and his father Don. Alford attempted the scam the duo out of $25M, in exchange for a presidential pardon from Donald Trump, letting Gaetz off the hook over his alleged sex trafficking scandal. However, he was caught and now faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

Alford attempted to scam the Gaetz family shortly after it became public knowledge the Florida Rep was under investigation. As we reported back in March, former DoJ official David McGee was initially named as the person responsible for attempting to scam Gaetz, but now we know he wasn't alone. McGee and Alford, along with a third person were named as part of the scam, claiming they would be able to get the investigation quashed, which was ironically launched while Trump was President

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The investigation into Gaetz is still ongoing, but reportedly he could be charged under the Mann Act, which has a sentence of up to 10 years. At the moment it's just a rumor, there's no confirmation on whether Gaetz will be charged at all. Right now, the sordid details of Gaetz's alleged trafficking have taken a backseat, as the scam has made headlines. There's a lot to unpack, beginning with Alford himself, who it appears is no stranger to these kinds of deals.

Rep Matt Gaetz (R-FL) asks a question during a hearing with the House Armed Services on May 14, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Who is Stephen Alford?

The 62-year-old is reportedly a resident of Fort Walton, Flordia and a real estate agent. His barebones LinkedIn profile says he is a sales associate at a Ford dealership in the area, where he has worked for over 8 years. It also says he is a business owner but does not detail what business Alford owns. Beyond that, we could only find details of Alford's criminal record, which involves two previous fraud convictions.

In 2015, Alford was released from prison after serving a 10-year sentence for fraud in connection to an investment scheme. He reportedly got the US Air Force to trade a swampland in exchange for prime Gulf-front property on Okaloosa Island. According to reports, Alford and lawyer David Fleet scammed investors of $11M, which they then used to swap a 548,000-acre property in Taylor County with a beachfront property owned by Eglin Air Force Base.

A vintage World War II B-25 bomber sits on the tarmac during an open house on April 28, 2002, at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. (Joe Piccorossi/USAF/Getty Images)

 

Then in August 2015, he was arrested again for fraud. Reportedly, Alford "swindled approximately $350,000 from at least one investor by promising lucrative returns for money intended for real estate ventures." Instead, he used the money to fund personal expenses, including luxury cars, jewelry, and a condo at Destin Yacht Club. He was released on 10 years probation in 2019. His next victim then turned out to be Matt Gaetz. 

The Gaetz extortion

Between March 16, and April 7, 2021, Alford engaged in a scheme to defraud the Gaetz family. He reportedly gave Don Gaetz's number to former Air Force intelligence officer Robert Kent. Kent and Alford approached Don about providing funding for an attempt to rescue Robert Levinson an American hostage in Iran. In return, they claimed that Donald Trump would pardon Gaetz, or "instruct the Department of Justice to terminate any and all investigations." The duo reportedly wanted $25M to help release Levinson, under a plan dubbed "Project Homecoming".

Rep. Matt Gaetz during a House Judiciary Committee markup of H.R. 7120 on Capitol Hill on June 17, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images)

Don then contacted the FBI and began wearing a wire to the meetings. At some point, Alford lowered the amount to $15.5M, with $1M to be paid in cash. He wanted the rest to be wired to McGee's account. When the DoJ began an investigation, Alford reportedly attempted to destroy his iPhone 12 Pro Max "while Justice Department agents attempted to search and seize it." That action led to an additional charge of attempted prevention of seizure of an electronic device. The indictment does not name Kent, McGee, or Don Gaetz, but uses the terms 'D.G.', and 'Person A'.

In April, Alford confirmed he had been interviewed by the FBI in an interview with a local publication and did not deny he approached the Gaetz family. Alford was subsequently arrested on August 31 and made his initial appearance in federal court the same day. "Alford is currently being held in the custody of the United States Marshals Service," the DoJ said in a statement but did not confirm where. It is unclear how Alford pleaded or when he is next due in court. 

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