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A Florida man found guilty of attempting to extort the father of GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz has learned his fate.
According to The Hill, Stephen Alford, a 63-year-old developer, pleaded guilty in a scheme to extort $25 million from Don Gaetz, who previously served as the Florida state Senate president.
A judge has sentenced Alford to more than five years in prison — 63 months — over the scheme, though according to the outlet, prosecutors wanted between 11 and 14 years behind bars for Alford. But U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Florida Casey Rodgers, a George W. Bush appointee, described that request as being incorrectly based on Alford actually having stolen the money rather than only attempting to do so, The Hill added.
“Intended loss does not fall within the bounds of reasonable interpretation for the term loss,” wrote Rodgers, according to the Northwest Florida Daily News.
The Hill added:
Alford’s plot would have seen him receive millions from Don Gaetz in exchange for promises of presidential pardon for Matt Gaetz, for any potential crimes from the FBI probe into sex trafficking allegations against the lawmaker.
An indictment filed last August charged Alford with wire fraud and attempting to prevent the seizure of an electronic device.
According to the indictment, Alford 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 Matt Gaetz.
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.
Alford is being imprisoned for the third time in 16 years over a long history of other plots to extort wealthy individuals, The Hill added.
A year ago, Matt Gaetz responded to the guilty plea noting that it proved he was right about the extortion plot while praising the Washington Examiner for first reporting the congressman’s side of the story.
“@dcexaminer ran this story when other outlets refused. I’ve been proven right. They tried to extort me on a pile of lies. Alford wasn’t acting alone – he had help from people with strong ties to the federal government. There is much more to this attempt to destroy me,” the lawmaker tweeted.
.@dcexaminer ran this story when other outlets refused.
I’ve been proven right.
They tried to extort me on a pile of lies.
Alford wasn’t acting alone – he had help from people with strong ties to the federal government.
There is much more to this attempt to destroy me. https://t.co/sEwDPdrTSK
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) August 31, 2021
“Stephen M. Alford did knowingly and willfully devise, and intent to devise, a scheme to defraud and for obtaining money and property by means of material false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises, and for the promise of executing such scheme, did cause, and attempt to cause, a wire communication to be transmitted in interstate commerce,” said a Justice Department press release in September.
In March 2021 Gaetz admitted that he was the subject of a federal investigation for sexual misconduct when he spoke to Axios.
He maintained his innocence and said that the accuser was attempting to extort himself and his wealthy family.
“The allegations against me are as searing as they are false,” he said in an interview with Axios. “I believe that there are people at the Department of Justice who are trying to criminalize my sexual conduct, you know, when I was a single guy.
“The allegations of sexual misconduct against me are false,” he added. “They are rooted in an extortion effort against my family for $25 million … in exchange for making this case go away.”
He then defended himself in a series of tweets in March as the accusations against him were trending on Twitter.
“Over the past several weeks my family and I have been victims of an organized criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name,” he said.
…and my father has even been wearing a wire at the FBI’s direction to catch these criminals. The planted leak to the FBI tonight was intended to thwart that investigation.
No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets…
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) March 30, 2021
“We have been cooperating with federal authorities in this matter and my father has even been wearing a wire at the FBI’s direction to catch these criminals. The planted leak to The New York Times tonight was intended to thwart that investigation,” the congressman said.
“No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation,” he wrote.