A North Texas man was found guilty of several fraud-related felonies in federal court earlier this week. Prosecutors say the frauds were part of a wide-ranging series of crimes that eventually came to include a murder and coverup orchestrated to obtain life insurance benefits.
Keith Todd Ashley, 50, was found guilty by federal jurors in the Eastern District of Texas on charges of wire fraud, mail fraud, carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, and bank fraud.
The long-beleaguered former owner of Nine Band Brewing, a since-shuttered boutique beer manufacturer that used the armadillo, a non-native mammal related to anteaters and sloths that has nevertheless become a major fixture in Lone Star State lore, on its logo. Ashley was indicted in Dallas County for the murder of one of his clients, 62-year-old James “Jim” Seegan, who was also a close friend, in April 2021.
The defendant has yet to stand trial on his capital murder charge.
Ashley’s bevy of fraud-related charges were filed several months prior to the murder allegation, in November 2020. Federal prosecutors asserted he had used his position as a financial advisor and life insurance agent to bilk investors out of well over $1 million.
While professing to invest at least nine of his clients’ funds in high-yield financial products with tantalizing returns, Ashley was actually just shuffling money from one client to another while also using some of their money to keep his struggling microbrewery in operation, and, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas, “to pay his personal bills and to fund a lavish lifestyle.”
Seegan, a resident of the Dallas suburb of Carrollton, was found dead in his own home in 2016, holding a gun in his left hand, with a gunshot wound to his head, a typed suicide note next to his body. The deceased man’s wife told police, however, that her husband was right-handed and did not own a gun. The unsigned purported suicide note was also a bit more than odd, with the last sentence reading: “My last friend Keith Ashley will help you with 972-658-6113.”
Those facts were enough for authorities to find the death suspicious. An investigation ensued. Ashley became a suspect after a thorough look into Seegan’s finances, according to law enforcement.
“There were some things, in evidence from the scene, that instantly had our detectives say let’s take a closer look at this one,” Carrollton Police spokesperson Jolene DeVito said in comments reported by Dallas-based NBC affiliate KXAS at the time of the murder indictment.
Ashley’s week-long federal trial was held before U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant in Sherman, Texas, home to Austin College. In sum, he was found guilty of 17 federal offenses and now faces life in prison.
“Ashley went to great lengths to defraud clients that trusted him,” U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston said in a press release. “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.”
The Nine Band brewery has since been purchased by a family of HGTV stars, according to The Dallas Morning News.
“Everyone feels like Shiner is the craft beer in Texas and we’d like to produce 40 percent of their volume in the next five years,” Ashley said as the brewery opened to a certain degree of acclaim in 2014.
[Image via Carrollton Police Department]
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