Fort Walton Beach Man Charged With Wire Fraud
A Fort Walton Beach man has been indicted by a federal grand jury on counts of wire fraud and the attempted prevention of seizure of an electronic device.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Pensacola said in a news release that “Stephen M. Alford, 62, of Fort Walton Beach, Florida, was indicted by a federal grand jury on counts of wire fraud and the attempted prevention of seizure of an electronic device, announced Jason R. Coody, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida. Alford was arrested on August 31, 2021, and made his initial appearance in federal court to face the charges.”
At the heart of the indictment is the allegation that between “March 16, and April 7, 2021, Alford engaged in a scheme to defraud a victim out of $25 million. As articulated in the indictment, Alford is alleged to have been involved in a scheme to obtain money based upon false promises or guarantees he made to the victim that Alford could deliver a Presidential Pardon for a family member of the victim.”
The Northwest Florida Daily News reported Tuesday that “Both former state Sen. Don Gaetz and his son, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, have claimed that Alford was among a group of people who tried to extort millions of dollars from their family."
“According to a version of events provided first by Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, Pensacola attorney David McGee and others attempted to extort $25 million from the Gaetz family, and Don Gaetz, a Niceville resident, wore a wire to a meeting to discuss a $5.4 million down payment to allow federal agents to gather evidence about the conspiracy,” the newspaper reported on its website. The Gaetzes are not named as victims of the scheme in the six-page indictment, however, there are a number of references to “D.G” throughout.
The U.S. attorney’s office said Alford is being held in the custody of the United States Marshals Service. He faces up to 25 years imprisonment.
"An indictment is merely an allegation by a grand jury that a defendant has committed a violation of federal criminal law and is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial,” the news release said.
The case was investigated by the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys David L. Goldberg and Lazaro P. Fields.