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Ex-aide ties Seyfert to witness tampering

Tuesday, January 25, 2000

By The Associated Press

A man accused of witness-tampering in a federal investigation of state Rep. Tracy Seyfert pleaded guilty yesterday, acknowledging he conspired with Seyfert in an attempt to get a witness to lie to the FBI.

Joseph Wenzel's plea in federal court in Erie does not require him to testify against the legislator, who has called Wenzel her unofficially adopted brother. In exchange for the plea, prosecutors agreed not to pursue accusations that Wenzel asked his brother to kill the witness.

On Jan. 11, Wenzel had been expected to enter the same plea but refused, saying he would not identify Seyfert as a co-conspirator.

Wenzel admitted that he worked with Seyfert - a Republican from Erie who is accused of illegally obtaining surplus federal property - and tried himself to get Harold "Frosty" Crane, an Elk Creek supervisor, to lie to the FBI when questioned about the investigation.

The federal surplus property program is for municipalities and charities, not individuals.

Wenzel, who was indicted in November on charges of conspiring to tamper with a witness and attempted witness-tampering, faces up to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced April 17.

Federal prosecutor John Trucilla said he has no intention of calling Wenzel as a witness at Seyfert's trial, a date for which has not been set.

Seyfert has pleaded innocent to the charges against her.



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