PENSACOLA, Fla. – Federal prosecutors have charged a convicted felon with attempting to defraud the family of Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz by offering a presidential pardon in exchange for a $25 million donation, according to an indictment unsealed Tuesday.
Stephen Michael Alford, who is currently on supervised probation in Florida for an unrelated fraud conviction, is accused of making the offer to the congressman’s father, Don Gaetz, a wealthy businessman and former state senator who once served as the president of the Florida Senate.
According to the indictment, Don Gaetz received a text message from an unnamed associate of Alford stating that his partner “will see to it that [Matt Gaetz] receives a Presidential Pardon, thus alleviating all his legal issues.”
The alleged fraud occurred in April and May 2021, after Joe Biden had been sworn in as president.
Matt Gaetz is not charged with any crimes and has vigorously denied any wrongdoing.
According to published reports, the congressman is under federal investigation for possible sex crimes that were discovered during the prosecution of former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg.
Alford allegedly told Don Gaetz that he needed $25 million to immediately fund the release of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who was captured in Iran in 2007 and is presumed by many to be dead.
Federal prosecutors said Alford falsely represented in a letter that his team “has been assured by the President” that he will strongly consider a Presidential Pardon or “instruct the Department of Justice to terminate any and all investigations involving [Matt Gaetz]” should the team be able to secure Levinson’s release from captivity, the indictment states.
After later lowering the total requested amount to $15.5 million, Alford promised to take Don Gaetz “by the hand to see the President of the United States” and could “guarantee” his son would not go to prison if the elder Gaetz helped Alford, according to the indictment.
Federal prosecutors also charged Alford with allegedly damaging or destroying an iPhone to prevent the government from taking the device into custody.
Other court documents were not immediately accessible, so it is not clear if Alford has retained an attorney. He could not immediately be reached for comment.
“Five months ago today Rep. Gaetz asserted — after baseless allegations about him — that he was the victim of an extortion attempt,” said a spokesperson for Congressman Gaetz. “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.”
McGee and Kent have not been charged with any crimes. Neither could be immediately reached for comment.
McGee’s law firm has called Gaetz’s allegations against him “false and defamatory.”
Kent previously told CNN that “there were no threats” or demands to the Gaetz family.
Alford faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.