A Florida businessman has been sentenced to five years in prison plus three years supervised release after he pleaded guilty last year to wire fraud.
Stephen Alford, 62, was sentenced to 63 months in jail followed by three years supervised release, according to federal court documents reviewed by Politico. Alford was accused of attempting to extort millions of dollars from Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and his father, Don Gaetz, by claiming he could get the congressman a presidential pardon.
The younger Gaetz is currently under federal investigation for allegedly paying a minor for sex. Gaetz has repeatedly denied the allegations.
Alford allegedly approached Gaetz and his father after somehow learning that the Department of Justice (DOJ) was looking into Gaetz before The New York Times publicly reported on the investigation. Don Gaetz, a former Florida Senate president, received a text message asking to discuss the investigation of his son. The elder Gaetz met with the sender the next day, and was given a letter outlining what would happen. The letter suggested that if the Gaetzes provided millions of dollars to locate and rescue Robert A. Levinson, an American hostage in Iran, then President Joe Biden would “strongly consider” giving Rep. Gaetz a pardon or even stop the DOJ from investigating the congressman altogether.
Alford himself met with Don Gaetz that same day, The Washington Post reported, giving more details of the plan and saying it could be done for $25 million. Within the next few days, Alford promised to send evidence that Levinson was still alive, saying Rep. Gaetz would become a hero if the hostage ended up getting home safe.
Don Gaetz was interviewed by the FBI about his contact with Alford, and wore a recording device to get Alford on tape. Alford later admitted to investigators that he had lied about getting Rep. Gaetz a pardon.
The investigation into Rep. Gaetz came from one into Joel Greenberg, a former county tax commissioner in Florida who is a close friend of Gaetz. In May 2021, Greenberg pleaded guilty to six charges, including knowingly soliciting and paying a minor for sex. In exchange for his guilty plea, Greenberg agreed to provide investigators with “substantial assistance” to build cases against others, including Rep. Gaetz, CNN reported.
Greenberg reportedly told investigators that he and Gaetz had provided women with cash or gifts in exchange for sex. One of Gaetz’s ex-girlfriends also testified before a grand jury earlier this year, and Florida radio host Joseph “Big Joe” Ellicott provided information about the allegations against Gaetz after he pleaded guilty to a separate bribery charge.
Even though the investigation against Gaetz was publicly reported in March 2021, the congressman has not been charged with any crimes. Last year, five months after the investigation was reported, journalist Glenn Greenwald explained that “leaking the existence of investigations without charges is a crime for a reason: destroys reputations with no chance of defense.”
“This was a favorite tactic of corrupt Brazilian prosecutors: they’d leak investigations and accusations to corporate media outlets, which would trumpet them, but never charge the person, thus destroying their enemies’ reputations with no need to ever prove the case in court,” Greenwald added.