Months before the public knew about the federal sex crimes investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz, the man seemingly at the middle of everything in MAGA world—Roger Stone—was already in deep.

How deep? Enough, in classic Roger Stone fashion, to play all sides.

Stone has long been close not only with Gaetz, but also with Joel Greenberg, the congressman’s former best friend and “wingman,” who last year pleaded guilty to sex trafficking the same minor at the center of the Gaetz investigation.

But Stone also has unreported ties to a third Florida man in the saga. And, what’s more, he lobbied for pardons for all three men.

While there’s still no definitive accounting for Stone’s motivations, new documents and sources provide a clue—a seemingly improbable connection, involving one of the most bizarre chapters in an already bizarre scandal.

It’s already known that Stone lobbied for pardons for both Gaetz and Greenberg in the waning days of the Trump administration. But it wasn’t known that Stone also advocated for a pardon for this third man connected to Gaetz and Greenberg: Stephen Alford, a serial fraudster from the Florida panhandle.

That development was first revealed by The Washington Post in a draft memo published earlier this month. But the Post report didn’t mention Alford—his name only appears in a document the Post obtained and uploaded online—and the link hasn’t been explored.

Two months after Stone advocated for Alford’s absolution, that allegiance dissolved when Alford became Gaetz’s scapegoat for the investigation. (Stone also eventually blasted Alford as part of the “deep state.”)

Just weeks before, however, Stone was in Alford’s corner, lobbying for a pardon.

According to the Post, the veteran GOP operative wrote a draft memo to then-President Donald Trump—called the “Stone Plan”—after the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.

In the memo, Stone asked Trump to pardon a number of associates, elected officials, and MAGA luminaries, including Gaetz, who Stone said merited a preemptive pardon for trying to overturn the election.

The “Stone Plan” also confirms The Daily Beast’s reporting last spring that Stone advocated for a pardon for Greenberg. At the time, Stone denied pushing for a Greenberg pardon, claiming he “made no formal or informal effort in regard to a pardon for Mr. Greenberg,” and had declined Greenberg’s offer to “retain” him.

But what makes the Stone list of potential pardon recipients even more notable is the last name.

Right after Greenberg comes Stephen Michael Alford. Stone then adds, “I have no ‘clients’—these are just people I know have busted their ass to help you get elected President.”

While it’s unclear how Alford is connected to Stone—or how Alford is connected to Trump—he does have quite the record.

In the 2000s, Alford was convicted in Florida for fraud and grand theft in excess of $100,000. In 2015, he was indicted on a $6 million fraud and extortion scheme, and two years later was sentenced to five years in prison. He was released in March 2019 on 10 years probation, according to records with the Florida Department of Corrections, and those convictions would appear the likely subject of his pardon request.

Still, one of the biggest mysteries of Stone’s involvement with the Gaetz and Greenberg drama is now what Stone’s connection to Alford may be.

Alford isn’t wealthy, and there’s no public record of him “busting his ass” to elect Trump. Alford never even donated to the campaign. He hasn’t made any listed contributions at all since 2004, when he and his three children all maxed out on the same day to Republican House candidate Bev Kilmer, per federal records.

According to a person with direct knowledge of the events, however, Alford had one powerful friend: A Republican lobbyist close to Stone.

Weeks after Alford’s pardon request was declined, that lobbyist shared some more information: Matt Gaetz was in trouble. And the lobbyist, this person said, had the details, including images of Gaetz with young women at a sex party.

While it’s unclear how the lobbyist—an associate of Oleg Deripaska—came into this information, Stone had by that time known about the Gaetz allegations for months; Greenberg had told Stone all about their involvement with a 17-year-old, both over text messages and in a confession he drafted at Stone’s request, as part of the pardon process.

It didn’t take long for Alford to cobble together a plan—and it was a doozy: He would secure Gaetz a presidential pardon in exchange for $25 million, which Alford would supposedly use to repatriate an FBI agent taken hostage in Iran who has long been considered dead.

Alford and an associate pitched the Gaetz family on the deal. They gave Gaetz’s father a letter claiming that his son was soon to be indicted for sex crimes and had been photographed at orgies, offering a $25 million exit ramp.

That plan eventually landed Alford back in prison. But first, Gaetz and Stone saw an opportunity.

When The New York Times broke the investigation in late March last year, Gaetz used Alford’s ploy as ammo. He fired off a tweetstorm, claiming the Times report was a “planted leak” designed to torpedo an investigation into “criminal extortion” plot “to smear my name.”

The central figure in Gaetz’s narrative, however, wasn’t Alford; it was Alford’s lawyer, whose role was limited to holding the money in an escrow account while Alford negotiated the release.

That lawyer had one special characteristic: Three decades ago, he served as a DOJ prosecutor. And that fact equipped the narrative with a “deep state” hook—a Roger Stone special.

Gaetz doubled down that night on Tucker Carlson’s late-night Fox News talk show, explaining the convoluted “leaking” and “smearing” plot to a befuddled Carlson, who remarked that it was “one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted.”

The next day, Stone piped up to defend Gaetz, using the same language.

“The ‘leaked’ smear on Congressman Matt Gaetz is an extortion play and an effort to destroy the up and coming conservative leader who has the balls to call the left out,” Stone wrote in a social media post, the Sun-Sentinel reported. He repeated the refrain for weeks.

But that effort to “destroy” an outspoken conservative threat to the left was actually the work of a man Stone himself had just argued was deserving of presidential clemency—based on his fealty to the MAGA cause.

And it was right around this time that the Gaetz campaign started paying Stone.

On March 24, the committee paid Stone’s firm $5,000 for “strategic campaign consulting,” according to federal records. Days later, Gaetz’s father met with Alford’s lawyer, wearing a wire.

The campaign continued to pay Stone $5,000 a month, and Stone continued to accept it, despite what Greenberg had told him months prior. The payments stopped in May, however, not long after Gaetz hired two high-profile out-of-state criminal defense attorneys, and Stone went dark.

Lawyers for Alford, Greenberg, and Stone all declined to comment for this article.

A Gaetz spokesperson reiterated that the campaign knew Alford was working with the two other people in the Iranian hostage plan. (Neither of them has been charged with a crime.)

“Who else he was working with, including Roger Stone, is news to us,” the spokesperson said.

While the Gaetz spokesperson said they weren’t aware of Alford’s ties to Stone, they did not answer when asked whether Gaetz and Stone had ever discussed Alford, and if so, when. They also did not say when things went south with Stone.

But if it wasn’t clear how Stone felt after the campaign payments stopped, in January he pulled back the veil, skewering Gaetz after reports revealed that an ex-girlfriend had testified to the grand jury under an immunity deal.

“Bye Matt! Bye Bye,” Stone posted on social media, linking to a report about the testimony.

That signaled a major break in a longtime friendship. Gaetz and Stone go way back—with Greenberg rounding out a famous photo taken in July 2017.

Screenshot from Matt Gaetz’s Facebook.

Months later, the trio attended a pro-cannabis conference, where Gaetz claimed Stone had “drafted” him in “2013 or 2014” to help roll back cannabis regulations. Stone also appeared at a Gaetz fundraiser after the conference, and that same day, Greenberg used Venmo to send $500 to a woman Gaetz has allegedly paid for sex, as The Daily Beast previously reported.

And Greenberg continued to hew closely to Stone’s orbit.

According to the Times, Greenberg—who held elected office as Seminole County tax collector—got political firepower from a website run by a member of the Stone-adjacent Proud Boys neo-fascist group.

In 2020, just before Greenberg’s first indictment, fake social media accounts linked to Stone pushed false smears about Greenberg’s political challengers, the Times reported.

“Watch out Seminole county,” one account posted, adding “don’t open your door” to Greenberg’s opponent, who Greenberg had falsely smeared as a pedophile—a crime to which he would later plead guilty.

The post linked to an article on a website run by a Stone associate Greenberg had previously paid to write favorable articles, according to payments obtained by The Daily Beast. Three days after that post went up, Greenberg was indicted.

Today, Greenberg sits in federal prison. So does Alford, on fraud charges. Stone is fighting a $2 million federal tax evasion lawsuit while under investigation for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The Gaetz investigation is ongoing.

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