When Jim Seegan’s wife returned to their home one early evening in February, she found her husband dead of a gunshot wound to the head. Next to him was a typed note indicating it was a suicide, Carrollton police said.
Over the course of a nine-month investigation, however, officials said the evidence just wasn’t matching up. Detectives found evidence that Keith T. Ashley, a former nurse and Allen brewery owner, actually murdered Seegan after incapacitating him with a type of anesthesia found in Seegan’s system during an autopsy, police said in an arrest warrant. A semi-automatic handgun was found in Seegan’s left hand when he was right-handed and didn’t own a gun, according to the report.
And as they dug deeper, they identified a Ponzi-type scheme that Ashley allegedly orchestrated, and officials said they believe there are at least eight other victims who may have fallen into his trap.
Ashley also served as Seegan’s financial advisor.
On Nov. 12, Ashley, the owner of Nine Band Brewing and a former financial partner of McKinney’s Franconia Brewing Company, was named in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury charging him with six counts of wire fraud. He was taken into federal custody the next day near his home in Allen.
About a week later, Ashley was charged with Seegan’s murder. The police work was part of an interagency partnership between the Carrollton Police Department, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which was crucial in pursuing justice for Seegan and his family, Carrollton Police Chief Derick Miller said in a Nov. 19 Twitter post.
According to the federal indictment, from Dec. 23, 2013 through May 14, 2020, Ashley, as owner and chief executive officer of KBKK, LLC, allegedly devised and executed a scheme to defraud investors of approximately $1.1 million.
Specifically, Ashley would solicit money from investors for purported investments that he represented were without risk when in reality it was believed he was diverting these investment funds for his own use, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Texas. News reports have indicated that some of these funds were used to pay brewery expenses, mortgage payments, casino spending and student loans.
If convicted, Ashley, who pleaded not guilty in an initial court appearance, faces up to 20 years in federal prison. The United States is also seeking forfeiture in the amount of $1.143 million.
Common scams such as Ponzi schemes falsely promise high financial returns or dividends not available through traditional investments, the FBI states on its website.
This type of fraud is named after its creator—Charles Ponzi of Boston, Massachusetts. In the early 1900s, Ponzi launched a scheme that guaranteed investors a 50 percent return on their investment in postal coupons. Although he was able to pay his initial backers, the scheme dissolved when he was unable to pay later investors.
Ponzi schemes seem to be on the rise. In 2019, more than $3.2 billion in investor money was found to be entangled in 60 different alleged Ponzi schemes, the largest percentage increase in 10 years, according to data from the website Ponzitracker.
Experts told CBS News recently that last year’s booming financial markets and a de-regulatory environment may be leading investors to take higher risks while encouraging more scammers to swindle unsuspecting investors.
The FBI offers several tips for avoiding Ponzi schemes on its website:
- Be careful of any investment opportunity that makes exaggerated earnings claims.
- Exercise due diligence in selecting investments and the people with whom you invest—in other words, do your homework before investing your money.
- Consult an unbiased third party—like an unconnected broker or licensed financial advisor—before investing
The warning signs became more evident as Ashley’s dealings unfolded, officials said.
According to the Carrollton arrest affidavit, Ashley worked as a registered nurse for City Hospital at White Rock in Dallas at the time of Seegan’s death. He was terminated in July for not working enough shifts, according to a story in The Dallas Morning News.
Detectives also determined from home video surveillance that Ashley was the last person inside the home before Seegan’s wife discovered her husband dead in an upstairs office that day, police said.
When she reached out to Ashley to notify him of her husband’s passing, he told her he needed her husband’s phone to contact his financial institutions because he said he had “accidentally” deleted the messages between the two men, according to the arrest affidavit.
While in possession of the phone, the affidavit said, Ashley then wired $20,000 from Seegan’s bank account without his wife’s consent.
Anyone with information related to these crimes is asked to call a tip line at (972) 466-9133 or email CrimeTips@CityofCarrollton.com.