The FBI is investigating an alleged extortion scheme against Representative Matt Gaetz (R., Fla.), who is himself the subject of a DOJ investigation into whether he violated sex trafficking laws.
Former Air Force intelligence analyst Bob Kent sent a message to the congressman’s father, Don Gaetz, on March 16 offering to help the congressman with “a plan that can make [Matt Gaetz’s] future legal and political problems go away,” according to documents provided to the Washington Examiner.
Don Gaetz — a Florida Republican who served as president of the Florida Senate — was suspicious of the offer and contacted the FBI, which is now investigating whether the offer constitutes criminal extortion, people familiar with the matter told the Washington Post.
On March 17 Kent and Florida developer Stephen Alford allegedly met with Don Gaetz in person. They proposed having Don Gaetz, a wealthy businessman, find $25 million to fund an operation to retrieve FBI agent Robert Levinson—who was last seen in 2010 and is presumed to have died in Iran. According to the documents, Kent and Alford suggested that Matt Gaetz could claim credit for the operation and this would help his standing in the eyes of the DOJ.
The funds reportedly were to have been deposited in the trust account of law firm Beggs & Lee under the name of David McGee, the Levinson family’s longtime lawyer and a former DOJ official.
The congressman would then receive aide for his current legal troubles. Kent and Alford reportedly indicated that the FBI is aware of photographs of Gaetz in a “sexual orgy with underage prostitutes,” and had knowledge of the DOJ investigation into the congressman.
The DOJ is examining whether Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking statutes in an alleged relationship with a 17-year-old girl and it is unclear how Kent and Alford could have influenced the probe. The statutes in question forbid adults from inducing a minor to cross state lines for sex. Gaetz has adamantly denied having a sexual relationship with a minor and has said his travel records will confirm that he never traveled with a minor.
People familiar with the matter denied that Justice Department investigators were connected to the alleged extortion attempt, in comments to the Post. However, Gaetz has said that news of the DOJ investigation may have leaked as part of the alleged extortion.
“This is a blatant attempt to distract from the fact that Matt Gaetz is apparently about to be indicted for sex trafficking underage girls,” McGee said in comments to the Daily Beast. McGee said allegations of extortion were “completely, totally false.”