Seda had financial assets at time of 2007 trial

Pete Seda received a taxpayer-funded defense during his money-laundering and tax-cheat case after failing to disclose that he believed he had more than $57,000 tucked away in various trust accounts with lawyers, financial documents show.

Separate sworn court documents Seda filed in 2007 just before and after receiving a federal public defender show that and other discrepancies in potential assets possibly available at the time to pay for his own defense.

A week after Seda's Oct. 24, 2007, revelation of the trust accounts, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Hogan ordered these accounts frozen and kept available for potential repayment to taxpayers for part of his defense.

Hogan on Friday ordered prosecutors and Seda's attorneys to file arguments on whether all or part of the money in the trust accounts should go toward defense costs, which have not been disclosed.

The opening of these previously sealed documents Friday was the latest twist in the more than seven-year case over Seda's use of his defunct Islamic charity to help smuggle $150,000 from Ashland to Saudi Arabia in 2000 and his fraudulent tax return to cover it up.

A jury convicted Seda on money-laundering and tax-evasion charges in 2010. Hogan on Sept. 27 sentenced Seda to nearly three years in prison and gave him two months to report to the federal correctional facility in Sheridan.

Seda's lawyers have vowed appeals and want a federal appeals court to order Seda free pending their outcome.

Though prosecutors argued Seda's motive was to fund Islamic terrorists in Chechnya, Hogan ruled they failed to make that connection.

A federal grand jury indicted Seda in 2005 while he was out of the country. After more than 21/2 years as an international fugitive hiding in Middle Eastern countries with no extradition agreements with the United States, Seda returned in August 2007 and surrendered to face the charges.

In an Aug. 30, 2007, request for a public defender, the former Ashland tree surgeon swore he was unemployed, had no other income and had about $45,000 in assets — $30,000 in arborist equipment, $10,000 in vehicles and $5,000 for a piece of land in Eastern Oregon, the document states.

He also listed a bank account with $5,000 and credit-card debt of at least $200,000 and denied any other money sources.

More than a month after receiving a court-ordered public defense, Seda refiled that document but with attachments describing several money sources, including an estimated $57,235 in previously undisclosed "lawyer trust accounts."

They included an estimated $19,235 in a trust account of Larry Matasar, a Portland attorney who is part of Seda's defense team. Another estimated $23,000 was in a trust account of Lynne Bernabei, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who represented Seda's defunct Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation in a recently failed attempt to get the charity's terrorism designation lifted.

Seda also declared that Ashland attorney and friend David Berger held a trust account for Seda of about $15,000.

In the document, Seda states that he believed the money held in the Bernabei trust was "Qur'an Foundation" money that he did not believe was available for use personally or for legal fees.

Seda did believe the money in the Matasar account was available to him for personal use, legal fees and bail, the document states.

Seda states "it is not clear" whether he had access to the money in what he called "the Berger account."

Berger did not return a telephone call late Saturday seeking comment.

In the amended filing, Seda also disclosed for the first time that he received "several thousand dollars inflow from trading, etc." during his last year on the lam in the Middle East.

Finally, Seda revealed that he received "a few thousand dollars from friends."

"This was an informal arrangement that should be viewed as a loan, not a gift," Seda wrote.

Seda did not identify the friends or when he received the money.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or by email at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

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