Ore. Islamic charity founder heads to prison

  • Wed Feb 29th, 2012 2:07pm
  • News

Associated Press

MEDFORD, Ore. — An Iranian-American man who founded an Islamic charity in southern Oregon and was convicted of smuggling money to Saudi Arabia was headed for federal prison Wednesday to serve his 33-month sentence, his lawyer said.

Pete Seda, also known as Pirouz Sedaghaty, had been released but under electronic monitoring until his deadline to report to prison in Colorado. The 54-year-old was convicted last year of tax fraud and conspiracy, but has appealed.

His lawyer, Steve Wax, told the Medford Mail Tribune that Seda, who has been wearing a GPS bracelet while living in Portland, would fly to Colorado to meet the deadline Wednesday.

Prosecutors alleged the money was for Islamic fighters in Chechnya and argued for a longer sentence, but they were not able to convince a judge. Seda was well-known when he lived in Ashland as an arborist and promoter of Islam. He operated the American branch of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation.

The Federal Correctional Institution of Englewood is a low-security prison that holds nearly 1,000 inmates 15 miles outside of Denver. Forbes and Money magazine have each called it one of the easiest prisons in which to serve time.

A prison spokesman disputed Englewood’s reputation.

“It doesn’t matter where you go in the Bureau of Prisons, you’ll get similar treatment and amenities,” said John Sell, the prison’s public information officer.

Among its inmates are Jeffrey Skilling, former CEO of Enron, serving time for his role in the company’s collapse. Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has asked to be sent to Englewood when he reports to prison on March 15, convicted of trying to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat left vacant when Barack Obama became president.

Inmates generally are required to work in the prison, which operates like “a little city,” Sell told the Mail Tribune. Seda, who owned an arborist business while in Ashland, could find himself working in jobs ranging from food service to laundry to landscaping, Sell said.

But, he said, “We don’t have use for a lot of arborists.”