The man Rep. Matt Gaetz has accused of trying to extort millions from his family—and blamed for recent allegations of sexual improprieties—admitted in a bizarre interview Monday to asking the Florida Republican’s dad to finance an international plot to “rescue” an American citizen widely believed to be dead in Iran.
Air Force veteran and “research consultant” Bob Kent verified to Sirius Radio personality Michael Smerconish that he had approached Gaetz’s deep-pocketed father, former Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, last month seeking a $25 million loan. The funds would ransom the release of Robert Levinson, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent who disappeared in Iran more than a decade ago. Levinson’s own family believes him to be dead, but Kent has insisted he has evidence he is alive and remains a hostage of the Islamic Republic, even though credible experts have dismissed his claims.
Kent said that he was aware of the time that Gaetz might have “legal issues,” and suggested that assisting in the mission would create “good will” toward the congressman. Though he didn’t say it outright, those issues seem to be the recently surfaced claims the lawmaker paid women for sex—including, possibly, an underage girl—and misused campaign funds.
“Matt Gaetz is in need of good publicity, and I’m in need of $25 million to save Robert Levinson,” Kent told Smerconish.
Kent described a sequence of improbable purported events that he said led him to solicit money from Gaetz’s dad: namely, that he misinterpreted a “joke” by a federal agent who said the U.S. government would believe his intel on an Iranian-linked militant’s activities if the former intelligence officer could track Levinson down. Kent said his team had attempted a rescue of the U.S. operative last July, in which he “lost four people” to Iranian forces.
Despite having coupled his request for money with an allusion to the congressman’s improprieties, and despite working on the project with serial Florida fraudster Stephen Alford, Kent maintained he had not sought to extort the Gaetz clan.
“I never threatened the man—matter of fact, it was the opposite: I told him if he decides not to help us he’ll never hear from me again,” Kent said of his meeting with Don Gaetz. “I can’t help how it sounds.”
Nevertheless, Kent said Gaetz’s father initially interpreted the overture as a blackmail attempt. But Kent asserted that the local Republican power broker then grew receptive, and offered to approach then-President Donald Trump with the materials.
But Kent said he insisted he wasn’t interested in the government’s assistance. He claimed that he received notice a week ago from Levinson family attorney David McGee that Don Gaetz would in fact bankroll his Middle Eastern adventure—only to have the younger Gaetz come forward a day later and assert the consultant was behind reports that the congressman had trafficked a 17-year-old girl.
“Last Monday I got a call from David telling me Don agreed to fund the project and I’ll
be sending you operating money on Tuesday,” Kent said. “Then that evening Congressman Gaetz went on the news.”
Neither the congressman nor a lawyer for his father immediately responded to a request for comment. Like Kent, they denied any wrongdoing.
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