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State Rep. Seyfert to plead guilty tomorrow

Thursday, May 11, 2000

By Dennis B. Roddy, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

State Rep. Tracy Seyfert will plead guilty tomorrow in a bizarre scandal that stood out among a spate of legal problems plaguing state legislators this year.

Seyfert, a two-term Republican from Erie, will admit to trying to obtain a massive, non-functioning generator once used by the Air Force, through a government equipment program that permitted only local governments and agencies to buy the materials.

Federal agents found it in the back of her home, a dogpatch of old motel rooms and bird-occupied buildings along "Tracy's Ridge" in suburban Erie.

The scandal included undercover tape recordings of Seyfert urging witnesses to cover their tracks and reports that she expected the power supply to fail with Y2K. The scandal reached a high pitch when a resigning staff member complained the state representative was involved in the occult and witchcraft.

Seyfert has never publicly explained why she wanted the generator, although her attorney, Tim Lucas, said it likely was to provide backup power for thousands of game birds she housed at a compound in Erie. Staff members said Seyfert had become convinced the power grid would fail on New Year's Day.

Lucas said Seyfert will plead guilty to one misdemeanor count of illegally converting government property to private use, and one criminal count of attempting to influence a government witness.

Seyfert, a licensed psychologist, was accused of conspiracy to get Harold "Frosty" Crane, a supervisor in Elk Creek Township, to change the story he gave to federal investigators. Crane was expected to testify that Seyfert asked him to get her the generator.

In exchange for her plea, Lucas said, the government will drop a remaining criminal count. He said the agreement would open the door to Seyfert receiving probation, although she could be sentenced to as much as 10 months in prison.

Another defendant in the case, Joseph Wenzel, 42, whom Seyfert has described as her unofficially adopted brother, pleaded guilty Jan. 24 to conspiring with Seyfert to attempt to get Crane to lie about the generator. After the indictment last year, Wenzel also was accused of threatening to kill Crane.

Seyfert, 57, left Harrisburg last night at the end of a House session and was reportedly on her way to Erie.

Seyfert's case is the latest among a string of troubles faced by state legislators this year.

State Rep. Thomas W. Druce, R-Montgomery, faces trial later this year in connection with the hit-and-run death of a Harrisburg pedestrian. State Rep. Frank Gigliotti, D-Brookline, awaits sentencing after pleading guilty last month to federal extortion and bribery charges.

State Sen. William Slocum, R-Warren, on Tuesday was sentenced to a month in jail and five months of probation and fined $15,000 for violating the Federal Clean Water Act.

State Rep. Frank Serafini, R-Lackawanna, resigned in February after he was convicted of lying to a grand jury.



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