SHALIMAR — Stephen Michael Alford, only recently released from federal prison after serving 10 years for fraud, was arrested again Thursday and charged with fraud and extortion.
Alford, 56, was charged with state felony charges following a joint investigation conducted by the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI.
A swaggering self-proclaimed “savvy land speculator,” Alford and his lawyer, David Fleet, made headlines in 2005 when their scheme to negotiate a deal with the Air Force to trade its holdings on Okaloosa Island for Taylor County timberland blew up on them.
FBI investigators said Alford had cheated two investors out of $12.6 million by selling each of them exclusive rights to the same piece of property.
Alford and Fleet were arrested on wire fraud and money laundering charges in connection with the scheme.
The two were tried together and convicted. Alford was sentenced to 10 years in federal custody and Fleet to three.
Alford maintained throughout that he believed he had acted in the best interest of the military, trying to get the Taylor County timberland that the Air Force wanted for a missile testing range.
Thursday morning, a search warrant was executed on Alford’s condominium at Destin Yacht Club in connection with another land deal scheme, according to an Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office news release.
In that scheme, Alford convinced an investor to loan him $350,000 by promising lucrative returns for real estate ventures, it said.
He used the money to buy himself expensive jewelry and cars and to pay the rent on his luxury condominium, the release said.
The victim told investigators that Alford had said he was going to sell “his” condominium in addition to the using the victim’s money, and expected to get significant returns on the investment, according to the arrest report.
A promissory note was drafted and signed before a notary public, stating that the victim would loan Alford $250,000 and Alford would repay $500,000 within three months, the report said.
The victim agreed to loan Alford an additional $100,000 in $50,000 increments.
When the loans became due, Alford came up with multiple reasons why the deals had not provided the expected returns and asked the victims for extensions, according to the report.
Emails and text messages showed that Alford told the victim that legal action regarding the deal would bring the loans to the attention of Alford’s probation officer.
Alford explained that under his probation, he was supposed to obtain permission before borrowing any money, the report said.
Alford said that if his supervised release was revoked, the victim wouldn’t see any return of his money.
At one point, Alford threatened to call the victim’s ex-girlfriend’s attorney and explain that the victim had loaned Alford money instead of paying the judgments owed to his ex-girlfriend, according to the report.
He is charged with larceny over $100,000, swindling to obtain property over $50,000 and extortion or threats.