Texas brewery owner convicted in major fraud scheme that included murder of his friend
Fort Worth Star-Telegram (TX)
A federal jury in Sherman convicted a Texas financial adviser on Wednesday of a fraud scheme that included the murder of a friend, who was one of his clients, at a Carrollton home in February 2020. The killer tried to make it look like a suicide, authorities said.
Jurors convicted Nine Band Brewing owner Keith T. Ashley, 50, on charges of wire fraud, mail fraud, bank fraud and carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence in the death of 62-year-old James “Jim” Seegan at Seegan’s home in Carrollton, said Eastern District of Texas U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston in a Wednesday news release.
Authorities had estimated that Ashley bilked at least nine people out of more than $1.9 million.
The verdict was reached Wednesday following a week-long trial before U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant in Sherman.
Ashley faces up to life in federal prison at sentencing. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office.
“Ashley went to great lengths to defraud clients that trusted him,” Featherston said.. “By plotting and causing the death of one client to steal his money, Ashley committed the ultimate betrayal of trust and decency and the jury saw Ashley for who he is, a con-artist who would go so far as murder to get what he wanted. Incredible work by investigators and prosecutors, as well as coordination between the Feds and the State have succeeded in getting this depraved criminal off the street.”
In 2020, Carrollton detectives said the motive for the killing was that the adviser was attempting to gain control of his clients’ finances, according to a warrant that charged Ashley with murder on state charges.
A grand jury later indicted Ashley on federal charges.
“Keith Ashley’s desire for wealth and comfort outweighed his ability to uphold his professional responsibility in both the medical and financial fields. He failed to act in the best interests of his clients and instead robbed them of their financial security; in this specific instance, he also ended a life,” said Dallas FBI Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. DeSarno in a news release.. “We will continue to seek justice for victims of these deceitful schemes, and I am grateful for the collaborative and investigative work performed by local and federal law enforcement on this case.”
Ashley shot and killed Seegan on Feb. 19, 2020, in Seegan’s home on Cannes Drive in Carrollton, police have said.
Carrollton police said Ashley then staged the death to make it look like suicide, placing a handgun in Seegan’s left hand and leaving a typed note near the body, according to the murder warrant released by Carrollton police.
The warrant written by Carrollton Detective B. Bonner gave this brief account of the investigation:
Sakidida “Dida” Seegan arrived home on the night of Feb. 9, 2020, after a day of work and found her husband, Jim Seegan, dead from a gunshot wound to his head in an upstairs office in their home.
Carrollton police found Seegan seated in an office chair with a black semi-automatic handgun in his left hand. His wife told detectives her husband was right handed and he did not own a gun.
Lying on a desk near Seegan’s body was a typed suicide note without any handwriting or signature. The last sentence stated, “My last friend Keith Ashley will help you with 972-658-6113.”
Detectives discovered a “Nest” video doorbell and footage on Seegan’s phone showing Ashley arriving at the Carrollton home at 9:31 a.m. on Feb. 19, 2020. At 10:15 a.m., an unknown loud noise activated the “Nest” camera that was set up in the interior of the garage.
The video showed Ashley leaving the home at 10:21 a.m., but he returned a few minutes later. Ashley let himself in the home and left again a few minutes later.
Later in the investigation, detectives conducted a sound reconstruction test in the home and in the office by firing the exact model handgun into ballistic gel. Authorities observed that the test gunshot noise caused the garage camera to activate.
While viewing the surveillance video, detectives determined that Ashley was the only person who entered the home until Seegan’s wife arrived later that evening.
Drug screen tests on Seegan determined that he had Etomidate in his system at the time of his death, according to the warrant.
The warrant stated that detectives learned that the drug was an anesthetic agent used by paramedics, nurses and anesthesiologists. When injected, a patient is rendered unconscious almost instantly.
Detectives learned that Ashley also was a registered nurse working for City Hospital at White Rock.
Days after Seegan’s death, authorities conducted more interviews with his wife, who told them she had talked to Ashley, as the note had instructed her to do in regards to contacting Seegan’s financial institutions. Ashley told her that he would need Seegan’s phone to obtain phone numbers and other information.
Dida Seegan told detectives she saw Ashley go to the text messages between him and Seegan and delete them from her husband’s phone. When she asked him about it, Ashley told her he “accidentally” deleted the messages. Ashley later denied doing it when questioned by detectives.
In that interview with detectives, Ashley also said he was not reimbursed for being Seegan’s financial adviser. He stated he only made money by selling Seegan two life insurance policies. But detectives found bank accounts for Seegan that showed he had transferred about $750,000 to KBKK in the last five years. KBKK was a business owned by Ashley, according to the warrant.
A forensic download of Seegan’s phone revealed that Seegan had an entry set at 9 a.m. on Feb. 19, 2020, that stated, “Keith -Blood.” Detectives believe Ashley used the ruse of needing to draw Seegan’s blood to update his life insurance policy and this was the time Etomidate was injected into Seegan.
In a Sept. 3, 2020, search of Ashley’s home, business, vehicle and electronic devices, authorities found an empty envelope from the Dallas Medical Examiner’s Office and a receipt for Seegan’s autopsy report.. The autopsy had been mailed to one of Ashley’s employees who worked at the brewery.
Ashley had told that employee that he was going to have an autopsy report sent to him and mentioned that the family of the deceased was trying to determine if the person had been poisoned or if it was a suicide.
During that same search, detectives found multiple financial documents where it appeared Ashley had forged signatures, according to the warrant. One of those documents was a forgery where Seegan’s signature was fraudulently placed, giving Ashley $65,000 as a non-repayable gift, according to the warrant.
The warrant also noted that Ashley had defrauded at least nine other people including Seegan for a minimum of $1,919,334.79. Five of those people were over the age of 65.
In the Ponzi scheme, Ashley took money from people as an investment and instead of depositing their funds into an investment account, he used it for his own personal purposes.
According to a federal indictment against him, Ashley used the money for utilities, college tuition and student loan payments, mortgage payments, cash withdrawals, legal fees, payments on personal credit cards, spending at casinos and brewery expenses.
Seegan had two life insurance policies, and one was worth $2 million. The beneficiary for the policies was his wife. The $2 million policy was then changed from his wife to Seegan’s trust, where Ashley was listed as the trustee and would have direct access to the funds.
Ashley also was the executor of Seegan’s will. Seegan’s wife told detectives she was unaware of the $2 million policy and she was certain it was not her signature on the beneficiary change forms, according to the warrant.
This report contains information from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s archives.