A man reportedly at the center of an alleged extortion plot involving Rep. Matt Gaetz and his family has been charged with engaging in a scheme to defraud a victim out of $25 million, in part by falsely promising he could secure a presidential pardon.
A grand jury charged Florida resident Stephen Alford, 62, with wire fraud in connection with the pardon scheme, carried out between March 16 and April 7, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.
Alford was arrested earlier Tuesday and made his initial appearance in federal court, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida said in a press release. He faces up to 25 years imprisonment on the charged crimes, according to the prosecutors’ office.
A Times report from April 1, which described Alford as a real estate agent with a prior fraud conviction, said that he and a former Air Force intelligence officer named Robert Kent approached Don Gaetz about providing funding for an attempt to rescue an American hostage in Iran.
They reportedly told Don Gaetz, 73, that securing that hostage, Robert Levinson, could help clinch a pardon for his son in case he was charged with federal crimes.
Don Gaetz then hired a lawyer and contacted the FBI.