Judge: Islamic charity founder free until ruling

  • Sat Jan 21st, 2012 5:04pm
  • News

Associated Press

MEDFORD, Ore. — A federal judge has issued an order allowing a man convicted of using a defunct Islamic charity to smuggle money to Saudi Arabia to remain free while waiting on an appeals court ruling.

Pete Seda, also known as Pirouz Sedaghaty, was convicted in 2010 of tax evasion and conspiracy for using his Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation charity to help smuggle $150,000 from Oregon to Saudi Arabia in 2000 and signing a fraudulent tax return to cover it up.

His lawyers said he’s not a risk to flee. U.S. District Court Judge Michael Hogan agreed, ruling that Seda will remain free while an appellate court decides on his appeals process, the Medford Mail Tribune reported.

Before that process gets under way, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will decide whether Seda should stay out on bail while it mulls his appeal.

Federal prosecutors did not oppose Seda’s defense team’s motion. The defense argument was based on a 9th Circuit ruling that essentially states defendants who get out on bail in U.S. District Court before beginning their prison term should stay out on bail while the appeals court makes its own bail decision.

The 9th Circuit judges have not indicated when they plan to rule on Seda’s request.

Seda was ready to board an airplane next week bound for Colorado, where he was ordered to begin serving his 33-month federal prison term, before he learned of the ruling.

At trial, prosecutors alleged that Seda’s motive was to fund Islamic terrorists in Chechnya. Hogan ruled they failed to show that connection. If the argument had been successful, it could have led to as many as eight years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.

For much of the past three years, the former arborist from Ashland, Ore., has been living in Portland with his wife and working. He has been allowed to travel between Portland and Ashland, according to the defense.

Prosecutors have indicated they will seek an order to force Seda to report to prison quickly should the appeals court rule against granting him bail.