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Seyfert pleads guilty, resigns

State legislator may face jail time

Saturday, May 13, 2000

By Kris Mamula, The Associated Press

ERIE -- A state representative resigned yesterday after admitting to illegally obtaining a generator originally intended for firefighters and then plotting to cover up the crime.

Tracy Seyfert, R-Erie, announced her resignation from the House of Representatives shortly after entering her guilty plea before U.S. District Court Judge Sean McLaughlin, saying she will leave the Legislature on June 1. Seyfert has spent four years in the House and was not seeking re-election this year, meaning her term would have ended at year's end.

"I have always given my best efforts for my constituents in every public office I have held," she said in a statement.

She pleaded guilty to the theft of federal property and conspiring to influence a witness. Seyfert, 58, could receive probation or six to 12 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines. Her sentencing was scheduled for Aug. 1.

As part of the plea arrangement, prosecutors dropped a more serious charge that she tried to have a witness change his testimony.

In the end, the legislator ended up in more trouble for the attempted cover-up than for the theft itself. The conspiracy charge, a felony, was more serious than the theft.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Trucilla said Seyfert illegally obtained a World War II-era surplus government generator and a 500-gallon oil tank, which together were worth less than $1,000.

Prosecutors said Seyfert asked Elk Creek Township Supervisor Harold "Frosty" Crane in April 1999 to help her get the equipment, which was supposed to be given to volunteer fire departments under a federal program to transfer excess federal property. Individuals are forbidden by federal law from receiving surplus government equipment, except under certain circumstances.

Seyfert said she needed the generator to protect thousands of exotic birds and eggs she incubates on her property in suburban Erie. She had asked Crane to get the generator under the pretense that it was for the township, prosecutors said.

But when Seyfert and a friend, Joseph Wenzel, learned that federal investigators wanted Crane to help them investigate the purchase, they conspired to persuade him to not to cooperate, prosecutors said. That led prosecutors to charge Seyfert with one count of witness tampering and another count of conspiracy to tamper with a witness, both felonies.

Wenzel, 42, pleaded guilty Jan. 24 and is scheduled to be sentenced in Erie on Monday.

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