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Financial Advisor Convicted On Federal Fraud Charges After Allegedly Murdering Client
Keith Ashley, a former financial advisor, was convicted on 17 federal charges related to allegations of orchestrating a Ponzi scheme and then murdering James Seegan.
A Texas man who once worked as a financial advisor and owned a microbrewery has been convicted on federal fraud charges after allegedly murdering one of his clients.
Keith Ashley, 50, was found guilty of 17 separate charges — including wire fraud, mail fraud, bank fraud, carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence and bank theft resulting in a death — after a week-long trial, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas announced in a press release.
The investigation into Ashley began after the purported suicide of one of his life insurance clients and financial advisees, James Seegan, 62, at his home in Carrollton, Texas — a northern Dallas suburb — in 2020.
James Seegan was found with a gunshot wound to the head by his wife, Sakidida Seegan, when she arrived home from work with the couple's son on Feb. 19. However, Sakidida Seegan noticed the gun was in James Seegan's left hand and she told police that her husband was right-handed and hated guns to the point that he made her get rid of a toy gun she bought their son, according to the Dallas Morning News.
His purported suicide note was printed off the computer and asked its reader to call Ashley, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. While the alleged note was on the blood-splattered desk in front of where James Seegan was shot, the note itself was blood-free.
Carrollton Police eventually determined the gun had been purchased at a pawn shop in 2013, and that there were no fingerprints on it or the shell casings, the Fort Worth paper reported. They also found that Seegan had a hospital-grade paralytic, etomidate, in his system but hadn't recently been in the hospital and wasn't known to abuse drugs. Ashley, on the other hand, was a registered nurse who had last administered the drug to a patient the previous December, the Dallas paper reported.
They also determined that Seegan had a calendar appointment at 9:00 a.m. on the morning of his death, which read "Keith - Blood," an indication that he was planning to give Ashley — who was his life insurance agent — a blood sample for the purpose of updating his policy. The Seegan home was equipped with a Nest doorbell system, which recorded Ashley arriving at 9:31 a.m. on the day of James Seegan's death. A separate Nest camera, installed in the garage, was activated by a loud noise at 10:15 a.m., after which the doorbell camera captured Ashley leaving at 10:21 a.m., returning shortly thereafter to let himself into the home and then leaving the home before 11:00, the Star-Telegram reported.
Investigators say the purported suicide note was printed off of Seegan's computer at 10:17 a.m., according to legal filings in the case. Tests allegedly showed that a gunshot in the home in the area where Seegan's body was found would, in fact, activate the Nest camera in the garage.
Sakadida Seegan also told police that Ashley came to their home two days after her husband's death and asked to use her husband's phone to unlock a financial account with two-factor authentication. She said she saw him delete the two men's entire text message history. Police later discovered that Ashley had used the authorization to transfer $20,000 from the dead man's bank account to himself, the papers reported.
Investigators subsequently determined that, though Ashley only claimed Seegan as an insurance client, the dead man had transferred $750,000 to Seegan's financial advisory firm in the five years before his death. They also discovered that Ashley had opened two life insurance policies in Seegan's name; Seegan's wife said she was unaware of the existence of the second policy, which was worth $2 million. Its beneficiary had been changed from Sakadida Seegan to a trust controlled by Ashley three weeks before her husband's death, the papers reported.
Carrollton police served a warrant on Ashley's home and business in September 2020, and found what they thought were multiple forged financial documents — including a document in which Seegan allegedly gave Ashley a $65,000 "gift" — the Star-Telegram reported.
That's when police called in federal investigators, according to Dallas-Fort Worth NBC affiliate KXAS and the Star-Telegram.
Federal investigators alleged in a November 2020 indictment that, starting in 2013, Ashley began soliciting clients for purported investments without risk, but actually pocketed at least $1.1 million and conducted a Ponzi scheme by using newer clients' money to pay off older clients. He allegedly spent the money he pocketed on expenses at his microbrewery, Nine Bands Brewery, at casinos, in addition to paying off personal credits cards and college tuition and student loans.
A retired FBI agent who had been involved in the case testified that he believed there were at least eight victims in the fraud scheme, five of whom were over 65, the Morning News reported.
Ashley was indicted on the federal fraud charges and arrested in November 2020. His mother-in-law contacted the FBI after his arrest and told them she believed he'd also stolen $250,000 from her family and re-directed forged checks from their accounts to his home, the Morning News reported. Court documents in the federal case revealed that investigators found what appeared to be a draft of an apparent suicide note on Ashley's computer in which he allegedly admitted to stealing more than $100,000 from his mother-in-law.
He was indicted on capital murder charges for the death of James Seegan in Dallas County in April 2021, according to KXAS. Those charges are still pending, according to the Morning News.
Ashley faces up to life in prison for his federal conviction. If convicted of Seegan's murder in state court, he will face life in prison without the possibility of parole, but prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty.