Lindberg Found Guilty Of Trying To Bribe Insurance Commissioner
A major political donor has been found guilty of trying to bribe a North Carolina insurance regulator in hopes of reducing scrutiny of his business.
A federal jury convicted insurance magnate Greg Lindberg on Thursday of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, according to court documents. His colleague, John Gray, was also found guilty of the two counts.
“The defendants devised an elaborate plan to make a hefty campaign contribution to an elected official to secure favorable action. This was not a lapse in judgment. It was a deliberate bribery attempt and a clear violation of federal law,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray said in a statement after the verdict. “Public corruption is a threat to our way of life and if left unchecked it can tear apart the very fabric of our country."
Another Lindberg associate charged in the case, John Palermo, was acquitted of the two counts.
Prosecutors have said Lindberg conspired to funnel money to Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey in exchange for special treatment. In particular, Lindberg sought to replace or work around a senior deputy commissioner within Causey’s office whose job it was to scrutinize Lindberg’s Global Bankers Insurance Group, according to court documents.
Causey alerted authorities and cooperated in the case against Lindberg.
"I really didn't know what to expect," Causey told WFAE's "All Things Considered" host Gwendolyn Glenn. "I was willing to let the process work out however it came out. I think the evidence spoke volumes."
The case also ensnared former state GOP Chairman Robin Hayes, who previously pleaded guilty to lying to investigators. Prosecutors said in the news release that Hayes caused the transfer of another $250,000 in Lindberg contributions from the party's coffers to benefit Causey.
Lindberg’s attorneys have argued that their client didn't commit a crime and that he was entrapped by Causey’s participation with authorities. Defense attorneys wrote in a legal brief this week that prosecutors didn’t show at trial that any personnel moves discussed by their client amounted to “a formal exercise of governmental power,” which they say would have been needed to prove he was trying to bribe Causey.
Defense lawyers wrote in the filing Tuesday that “this case does not involve a hiring decision. It does not even involve a formal change in job titles or responsibilities among Department of Insurance employees. Rather, it involves an informal personnel move, or reassignment of tasks.”
Causey also released a statement on the verdict:
“When I took office, I swore an oath to support and maintain the laws of this State and to faithfully discharge the duties of my office as Commissioner of Insurance. I also committed to rooting out insurance fraud and corruption wherever it may be, and to prosecute such fraud to the fullest extent of the law. It is with these guiding principles that I agreed to cooperate with the federal authorities in their investigation.
“Since I took office in January 2017, I have worked with our professional staff to ensure that all companies are treated fairly and consistently, and that the policyholders of our State are protected. The verdict handed down today by the jury emphasizes this point and shows that the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance is not for sale.
“I appreciate all the work that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have put into this case.”