Who Is Robert Levinson, Missing FBI Agent at Center of Matt Gaetz Case?

Republican Representative Matt Gaetz faces potential legal jeopardy after it was revealed he is under FBI investigation for possible sex crimes. He has denied wrongdoing and has not yet been charged.

Gaetz, who represents Florida's 1st congressional district, is accused of having sex with a 17-year-old girl and transporting her across state lines. However, the issues have been complicated due to an alleged extortion plot against Gaetz and his father, Don Gaetz.

Don Gaetz was reportedly approached by two men with knowledge of the investigation against his son at a time when the information was not public. They told Gaetz they could help the congressman in exchange for a large sum of money to fund their attempt to find former FBI agent Robert Levinson.

Levinson left the FBI in 2005 but in 2007 he traveled to Kish Island, a tourist destination off the coast of Iran.

He was there on an unauthorized trip for the CIA to gather intelligence on Iran's nuclear program.

Levinson disappeared from the island under mysterious circumstances in March 2007 and was last seen alive in a hostage video in 2010.

The State Department and the Department of Justice jointly offered a $25 million reward for information about Levinson but in 2020, the U.S. government told Levinson's family that they had concluded he was dead. By that time, he would have been the longest-held American hostage in Iran.

FBI Director Christopher Wray told the agency in a note that he had spoken to Levinson's family and "explained that the most credible evidence we have collected over the past 13 years points to the likelihood that Bob died in captivity."

The Iranian government had previously denied holding Levinson, though in November 2019 they told the United Nations that the country had opened a court case about him. Nonetheless, when the FBI announced Levinson's death, Iran again denied having anything to do with his disappearance.

Gaetz has denied the allegations against him and said they are "rooted in an extortion effort against my family for $25 million." The FBI is investigating whether Gaetz and his father were victims of an extortion plot.

Speaking to Fox News, Gaetz identified former Florida federal prosecutor David McGee as one of the individuals involved in the alleged plot. McGee had befriended Levinson when he was a prosecutor and Levinson was still at the FBI, according to the 2016 book Missing Man by New York Times journalist Barry Meier.

McGee has represented the Levinson family during their effort to find the former FBI agent and said he had spoken to Don Gaetz about Matt Gaetz's potential legal difficulties but he denied being part of any extortion plot.

"It's a blatant attempt to distract from the fact that he's under investigation for sex trafficking of minors," McGee said. "I have no connection with that case at all, other than [being] one of a thousand people who have heard the rumors."

The men who initially communicated with Don Gaetz were former Air Force intelligence analyst Bob Kent and Florida developer Stephen Alford, according to The Washington Examiner, which obtained a text message and a document that allegedly explained the proposal made to Gaetz.

Kent reportedly met with Don Gaetz and showed him the proposal, called "Project Homecoming", which contained sex crime allegations against the congressman and a purported solution that Gaetz says was an attempt at extortion.

"Our strategy for Congressman Gaetz to mitigate his legal, and political, troubles would be for him, or someone else, to arrange for the funds required to obtain the immediate release of Robert Levinson from captivity in Iran," the document said.

"In exchange for the funds being arranged, and upon release of Robert Levinson, Congressman Gaetz shall be given credit for facilitating the release of Mr. Levinson," the proposal went on.

It is not clear how the men who approached Gaetz knew about the FBI investigation into his actions. The bureau is now carrying out two separate probes—one about the alleged extortion plot, the other investigating Gaetz's alleged crimes. Robert Levinson is still presumed dead by U.S. authorities.

Florida Representative Matt Gaetz
Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) arrives for a House Armed Services Subcommittee hearing with members of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee on Capitol Hill on December 9, 2020 in Washington, DC. Gaetz has denied any wrongdoing and said he is the victim of an extortion plot. Samuel Corum/Getty Images