Florida developer charged in alleged $25M scheme to extort Gaetz's family

Federal authorities have charged a Florida developer in connection with an alleged scheme to extort $25 million from Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzHouse GOP leaders urge 'no' vote on Bannon contempt Cheney presses Republicans to back Bannon contempt vote Judge grants another sentencing delay to Gaetz associate, but says it will be his last MORE’s (R-Fla.) father in exchange for the promise of a presidential pardon for any potential crimes from the FBI probe into sex trafficking allegations against the lawmaker.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida announced Tuesday that 62-year-old Stephen Alford, who was previously convicted of federal fraud charges in a separate case, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on counts of wire fraud and the attempted prevention of an electronic device’s seizure.

According to an indictment unsealed Tuesday, Alford between March and April of this year allegedly took part in a complex scheme called “Project Homecoming,” in which the Fort Walton Beach man claimed that his “‘team had 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’” an individual, identified in reports as Gaetz.

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Federal prosecutors noted that the money gathered from the alleged extortion scheme was meant to be used to help rescue Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who disappeared in Iran in 2007.

Gaetz touted the federal charges against Alford and blasted the alleged scheme on Twitter, asserting, "I’ve been proven right. They tried to extort me on a pile of lies."

While the indictment does not specifically mention the lawmaker by name, and refers to the target of the extortion scheme as “D.G.,” Gaetz’s father, Don Gaetz, specifically mentioned Alford in a March Politico interview when backing his son’s claims that his family was the victim of an extortion plot by a former Department of Justice (DOJ) official. 

Don Gaetz told Politico at the time that he had been working with the FBI as part of an investigation into the alleged extortion plot, and had worn a wire on several occasions. 

Both Don and Matt Gaetz had accused former federal prosecutor David McGee of being behind the alleged plot, which McGee has strongly denied. 

Don Gaetz told Politico that he had attempted to get Alford to discuss payments he was making to McGee, but added that their planned meeting fell apart after the press reported on the DOJ’s sexual misconduct investigation involving his son. 

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The attorney’s office said that Alford made his initial federal court appearance Tuesday and is currently being held in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. 

It was not immediately clear if there was an attorney representing Alford, who faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted. 

The Hill has reached out to a representative for Matt Gaetz for comment. 

The arrest and charges come as Gaetz remains under a federal investigation over whether he had an inappropriate relationship with a minor and violated sex trafficking laws. Gaetz has repeatedly denied the allegations against him. 

Former Gaetz associate Joel Greenberg, who in May pleaded guilty to six federal crimes, including sex trafficking a minor, is reportedly cooperating with authorities in their probe of Gaetz, including by providing them with years worth of online records.