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Allen brewer’s federal fraud trial centers on mysterious death of Carrollton man

Keith Ashley faces multiple federal charges, including wire fraud, bank theft and using a firearm during a crime.

Sakdida “Dida” Seegan knew something was wrong when her son’s school called and said her husband hadn’t picked him up.

The pounding in her heart quickly grew louder on the short drive home with 7-year-old Josh. Thoughts crept in her mind that her husband, James Seegan, might be dead.

“I’m thinking what I’m going to do without him,” Seegan told jurors in a federal courtroom in Sherman on Wednesday. “I can’t imagine Josh without his dad.”

Carrollton police provided this photo of Jim Seegan of Carrollton, who police now say was...
Carrollton police provided this photo of Jim Seegan of Carrollton, who police now say was murdered after his death in February 2020 was initially ruled a suicide.(Courtesy / Carrollton Police Department)

Keith Ashley, the man accused of killing Seegan in his Carrollton home, sat across the courtroom watching her testify and scribbling notes on a notepad.

Ashley faces multiple federal charges, including wire fraud, bank theft and using a firearm during a crime. Although he is not standing trial on a murder charge this week, much of the government’s case centers on Seegan’s slaying on Feb. 19, 2020.

In state court, Ashley has been indicted on a capital murder charge. That case is pending in Dallas County.

911 call

When she got home that day, Dida Seegan saw another concerning sign: her husband’s car was in the garage. She and Josh walked upstairs and from the stairwell could see James Seegan unresponsive in a chair in his office.

Josh feared someone was in the house and urged his mom to flee. Her 911 call as they made their way outside was played for the jury.

In it, the operator told Dida Seegan to check her husband for signs he was breathing. Josh cried “No!” in the background.

“My son’s scared somebody is here,” she said.

In the courtroom, she erupted in tears and U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant placed a box of tissues next to her. The judge called for a break and jurors were escorted outside the courtroom, one of them sobbing and another clutching a handkerchief.

Special U.S. Attorney Jason Fine did not finish playing the call when jurors returned.

Keith Ashley, owner of Nine-Band Brewing Company in Allen on April 17, 2014. The company...
Keith Ashley, owner of Nine-Band Brewing Company in Allen on April 17, 2014. The company broke ground in March and will be Allen's first brewery. (Rose Baca/Neighborsgo Staff Photographer)(Rose Baca / neighborsgo staff photographer)

Mystery around death

Seegan’s death, initially ruled a suicide, was mysterious from the beginning.

Dida Seegan said she didn’t believe her husband killed himself. He had plans to surprise Josh with an iPad after school. He had home-improvement projects, and he was planning a trip with his son and nephew to his native Pittsburgh later that year.

A 9mm pistol was found in his left hand. He was right-handed and hated guns, Dida Seegan said. He even got rid of a toy gun she once brought home for Josh.

A first responder later wrote that he had never seen a suicide in which the gun stayed in the person’s hand, according to federal court documents.

A typed suicide note was on Seegan’s desk. Blood was on the desk, but did not get on the note, prosecutors said.

No fingerprints were found on the gun, the shell casing or other rounds inside the magazine, according to court records. Authorities were able to find the gun was initially sold at a Wylie pawnshop in 2013. That buyer was interviewed and said he sold a lot of guns around that time, so he could not remember to whom he sold the gun.

Carrollton police began to suspect Ashley when they found that Seegan had a $2 million life insurance policy that Ashley recently gained control over, according to court records. Officers learned that Ashley had solicited clients with promises of investing their money but pocketed it instead, prosecutors said.

In all, Ashley is accused of spending more than $1 million of his clients’ money, U.S. Attorney Heather Rattan said.

“It’s a cauldron that resulted in crime: killing and stealing,” she said.

Defense lawyer James Whalen countered that the government’s case is flawed. He cautioned jurors to wait for the end of testimony before making up their minds.

“We believe they’re going to ask you to make inference beyond inference beyond inference and that’s not proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” Whalen said. “The facts don’t fit the charge.”

Finances stressed

Ashley wore many hats before his arrest in November 2020. He was a registered nurse and worked with area hospitals. He also owned self-started businesses, including Nine Band Brewing in Allen.

Federal agents have testified in previous hearings that Ashley sold legitimate mutual funds and life-insurance policies from 2003 to 2013.

At some point, they say — feds don’t know exactly when — Ashley solicited money from people under false pretenses. He’d tell them their money would be placed into an investment fund. Instead, Ashley deposited their money into his own bank accounts, authorities have written in court documents.

A retired FBI agent testified in a hearing last year that he suspected Ashley stole from at least eight people, five of whom were older than 65, over a period of about 10 years.

Ashley’s finances became stressed in 2018, about two years before Seegan’s death, according to prosecutors’ filings. His top revenue sources decreased, prosecutors said, and his businesses owed more than $14,000 in monthly loan payments.

Ashley also lost money gambling at a Choctaw casino, prosecutors said.

Jurors are expected to hear that Ashley used stolen money to make payments on college tuition and student loans, mortgage payments, credit card debt, expenditures in casinos and expenses incurred by the brewery, among other personal expenses.

Jurors heard from three men who said they were defrauded by Ashley. After his arrest in November 2020, Ashley’s mother-in-law contacted the FBI and said she believed he had stolen about $225,000 from her family since 2012. She told agents Ashley forged Prudential Investment checks and had them re-directed to his house.

None of the people he’s accused of defrauding reported him to law enforcement until Carrollton police began investigating after Seegan’s death, Whalen noted in previous hearings.

Control of policy

In Seegan’s purported suicide note, he wrote to his wife: “My last friend Keith Ashley will help you” with Ashley’s phone number included.

Less than a year before Seegan died, Ashley made himself executor to Seegan’s will and trust.

Jurors heard calls Ashley made to Midland National Life Insurance Co., where he was contracted as an agent, changing the beneficiary of Seegan’s $2 million policy to the trust Ashley controlled. The calls were made about three weeks before Seegan’s death.

Prosecutors have said in court filings that Ashley attempted to log onto Seegan’s account from his home on Feb. 20, 2020 — the day after Seegan’s death. But Seegan’s account required a two-step authentication and Ashley could not log on.

The next day, Ashley visited Seegan’s wife and son. He asked the 7-year-old to unlock his father’s cellphone, Dida Seegan told jurors.

Ashley then wired $20,000 to one of his own accounts from one of Seegan’s accounts “within 48 hours of killing” him, Rattan said.

An autopsy showed Seegan had a drug called etomidate in his system that temporarily paralyzes patients and is not easily accessible outside of a hospital. Dida Seegan said her husband was not a drug user and had no recent medical procedures that would have necessitated the use of an anesthetic.

Prosecutors have said in court records that Ashley used etomidate in December 2019 while caring for a patient at a Dallas medical center.

Seegan’s calendar showed he had an appointment with Ashley the morning of his death, prosecutors have said in court filings. FBI agents believe Seegan thought Ashley would draw his blood to use for his life insurance policy, a common practice in the industry to classify a person’s medical risks.

Surveillance cameras captured Ashley arrive at Seegan’s house at 9:30 a.m. A loud noise activated a security camera in the garage at 10:15 a.m. Agents believe the noise was the gunshot, according to court records.

The purported suicide note was printed from Seegan’s computer two minutes later. Ashley is seen leaving Seegan’s house at 10:21 a.m.

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