WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The mystery of a missing retired FBI agent took a new twist Wednesday on news that Iran — fresh off announcing the release of 15 British sailors and marines — might be willing to lend a hand in the search.
Robert Levinson, 59, of Coral Springs, Fla., was last seen March 11 on the jet-set Iranian resort island of Kish. He was said to be working on a film about the island, known for its beaches, sea turtles and relatively liberal atmosphere.
A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in the United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi said the State Department contacted Iran for information on Levinson. The United States and Iran have no diplomatic relations, but exchange information through neutral Swiss diplomats.
"We have several such cases each year involving welfare and whereabouts of American citizens in Iran," embassy spokesman Wes Robertson said. "He's a private citizen involved in private business in Iran."
Iran replied to the U.S. request for information or help, and asked for additional details about Levinson's travel itinerary, State Department spokesman Tom Casey said.
The Iranian response came hours before Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pledged to release 15 British sailors held in Iran.
U.S. officials insisted there is no connection between the British sailors and the case of the missing American, and no connection to other recent incidents involving Iranians detained by U.S. or Iraqi authorities.
Levinson spent 28 years with the FBI and Drug Enforcement Agency in New York and Florida, primarily gathering information on cases involving Italian and Russian mobsters and investigating Colombian drug cartels.
He retired from the FBI in 1998, and started a private security company, R.A. Levinson & Associates. He also is a principal at Business Integrity International, an international investigative firm with offices in Miami and New Jersey.
The father of seven children, Levinson lives with his wife, Christine, in a posh gated community in Coral Springs, Fla., a private enclave of 100 homes and estates that sell for $1.5 million or more.
A senior law enforcement source told FOX News that Levinson travelled to Dubai before heading to Kish Island to set up interviews on behalf of a Canadian documentary producer and author.
U.S. authorities are not sure he ever arrived on Kish.
The State Department confirmed that Iran agreed to look into Levinson's disappearance, checking passport records to gather information such as his flight number and arrival time.
The FBI has said it has no evidence of foul play, but there is obvious concern.
"We miss him and love him very much. We are worried about him and want him home safe and sound as soon as possible," Christine Levinson and other relatives said in a statement to The Associated Press.
"This has been a very difficult time. In the past 48 hours, as this has become public, we've heard from many of our friends. We are touched and so grateful for the support and prayers we've received," the statement said.
The family asked for privacy "as we do everything possible to bring Bob home."
Americans need no visa to enter Kish, one of three Iranian free-trade zones with relaxed visa and trade rules.
FOX News' Todd Connor and the Associated Press contributed to this report.