Former FBI agent from South Florida died under Iranian custody, his family announces

Robert Levinson, prior to his kidnapping in 2007. Photo from the Levinson family.

The family of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent from Florida who has been missing in Iran since 2007, have been advised by federal officials that Levinson died in Iranian custody.

“We don’t know when or how he died, only that it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,’’ the family said late Wednesday in a written statement published on a website they established to share information about his disappearance.

“Today, with aching hearts, we are sharing devastating news.”

The note was signed by his wife, Christine, and their seven children.

President Trump confirmed the news when asked about it by reporters attending his daily coronavirus press briefing. But Trump also said he does not accept the news that Levinson is really dead. More background on the case here.

Levinson’s family indicated they believe he is dead.

“It is impossible to share our pain. Our family will spend the rest of our lives without the most amazing man we have ever known, a new reality that is inconceivable to us. His grandchildren will never meet him. They will only know him through the stories we tell them,’’ the family said.

“If not for the cruel, heartless actions of the Iranian regime. Robert Levinson would be alive and home with us today. It has been 13 years waiting for answers.”

“How those responsible in Iran could do this to a human being, while repeatedly lying to the world all this time, is incomprehensible to us. They kidnapped a foreign citizen and denied him any basic human rights, and his blood is on their hands.”

The family has not been told what happened to his body or whether it will be returned.

Levinson, a longtime FBI agent based in South Florida, had retired from his job and was working part-time for the Central Intelligence Agency at the time of his disappearance. He was kidnapped from a hotel on the Iranian-controlled Island of Kish as he met with an informant.

David L. McGee, a former assistant U.S. attorney who worked for years with Levinson, represents the family in a civil lawsuit pending in federal court in Washington, D.C. The family is seeking damages totaling $1.5-billion.

McGee has spent 13 years representing the family and attempting to get information on Levinson and his whereabouts.

The family pledged to spend the rest of their lives trying to hold accountable those in the U.S. government and Iran they feel contributed to his kidnapping and imprisonment.

“We expect American officials, as well as officials around the world, to continue to press Iran to seek Bob’s return, and to ensure those Iranian officials involved are held accountable.”

Lucy Morgan
Pulitzer Prize-winner Lucy Morgan was chief of the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times capital bureau in Tallahassee for 20 years, retiring in 2006 and serving as senior correspondent until 2013. She was inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame and the Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame. The Florida Senate named its press gallery after Morgan, in honor of her two decades covering the Legislature.