Stephen Alford Sentenced Over $25M Gaetz Family Extortion Attempt

Florida real estate developer Stephen Alford has been sentenced to just over five years in federal prison for trying to extort $25 million from Don Gaetz, the former state Florida Senate president and father of the sunshine state's district congressman Matt Gaetz.

Alford, 62, of Fort Walton Beach, was arrested in August 2021 and charged with wire fraud and attempting to prevent seizure of an electronic device. He pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud on November 22, 2021.

Alford faces 63 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. The sentence followed a Monday afternoon hearing and comes after District Court Judge Casey Rodgers ruled last week that the Justice Department incorrectly attempted to set guidelines for sentencing for stealing $25 million, rather than attempting to steal $25 million. Had Alford been sentenced for stealing $25 million, he would have faced a minimum sentence of 15 years.

WEAR-TV reported that sentencing for the fraudster had been delayed five times.

Alford admitted to working in a scheme involving correspondence between himself, his business partner and Don Gaetz.

Alford told Don Gaetz that if he gave him $25 million to help free Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who is held hostage in Iran, arrangements would be made for Democratic President Joe Biden to pardon Matt Gaetz in the federal sex trafficking investigation the Republican faces. The Trump administration told Levinson's family last year that U.S. intelligence believed Levinson died in captivity.

Alford claimed to have access to the president and would be able to pardon Matt Gaetz, despite charges including having sex with 17-year-old girl and paying her to cross state lines. Matt Gaetz unsuccessfully sought a pardon from former U.S. President Donald Trump before he left office in January 2021.

The fraudulent scheme was discovered by law enforcement in March 2021 when the FBI interviewed Don Gaetz about his correspondence with Alford and his business partner, named "Person A." Don Gaetz told investigators he received a text from Person A four days before requesting a meeting to discuss "the current investigation and the indictment that is about to be filed against [Matt Gaetz]," the Northwest Florida Daily News reported.

The conversations occurred amid reports that the Florida congressman was being investigated for alleged sex trafficking. He denies the allegations, and criminal charges have not been filed against him.

Alford later conceded to FBI agents that he had never received any assurances from the Biden administration about a potential pardon of Matt Gaetz.

It marks the third time Alford has been sent to prison since March 2006 on charges related to attempts to extort large amounts of money from wealthy individuals or businesses.

Newsweek has contacted Matt Gaetz's team for comment.

Matt Gaetz in Washington D.C.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) speaks to reporters during a break in a closed-door meeting with former White House counsel Don McGahn at the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill June 4, 2021 in Washington, D.C. A Florida man has been sentenced for trying to extort $25 million from Gaetz's father Don Gaetz. Drew Angerer/Getty