A federal jury sitting in Charlotte, North Carolina, has convicted the founder and chairman of a multinational investment company and a company consultant of public corruption and bribery charges, for orchestrating a bribery scheme involving independent expenditure accounts and improper campaign contributions.
Greg E. Lindberg, 49, of Durham, North Carolina, the founder and chairman of Eli Global LLC (Eli Global) and the owner of Global Bankers Insurance Group (GBIG), and Lindberg’s consultant, John D. Gray, 69, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, were convicted of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds after an approximately three-week trial before U.S. District Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr. A third co-defendant, Eli Global executive John V. Palermo, 64, of Pittsboro, North Carolina, was acquitted by the jury. A fourth co-defendant, Robert Cannon Hayes, 74, of Concord, North Carolina, previously pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI.
“Greg Lindberg and John Gray undermined public confidence in our government by promising millions of dollars in campaign contributions in exchange for government decisions to benefit Lindberg’s business interests,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The department is grateful for the assistance of the law-abiding public officials who reported the attempted bribes in this case, which allowed us to use all the tools at our disposal to investigate and root out this pernicious and greedy effort to corrupt North Carolina state government.”
“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,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray for the Western District of North Carolina. “Public corruption is a threat to our way of life and if left unchecked it can tear apart the very fabric of our country. My office will continue to diligently ferret out public corruption schemes to protect the public and hold bad actors like these unscrupulous defendants accountable.”
“Greg Lindberg and John Gray plowed across the line from legal political donations to felonious bribery,” said Special Agent in Charge John Strong of the FBI’s Charlotte Field Office. “These men thought they could buy changes to North Carolina Department of Insurance personnel, policies, and procedures to benefit Lindberg's businesses. The FBI will work tirelessly to root out any and all forms of public corruption.”
According to filed court documents, witness testimony and evidence presented at trial, in January 2018, the elected Commissioner of Insurance (Commissioner) of the North Carolina Department of Insurance (NCDOI) reported concerns to the FBI about political contributions and other requests made by Lindberg and Gray, and agreed to cooperate with the federal investigation that was initiated.
The evidence established that from April 2017 to August 2018, Lindberg, Gray and Hayes engaged in a bribery scheme involving independent expenditure accounts and improper campaign contributions for the purpose of causing the Commissioner to take official action favorable to Lindberg’s company, GBIG. Trial evidence further established that Lindberg and Gray gave, offered, and promised the Commissioner millions of dollars in campaign contributions and other things of value, in exchange for the removal of NCDOI’s Senior Deputy Commissioner, who was responsible for overseeing regulation and the periodic examination of GBIG.
According to trial evidence, Lindberg, Gray and the Commissioner held numerous in-person meetings at different locations, including in Statesville, North Carolina, and had telephonic and other communications with each other, and with Hayes, to discuss Lindberg’s request for the personnel change in exchange for millions of dollars, and to devise a plan on how to funnel campaign contributions to the Commissioner anonymously. In order to conceal the bribery scheme, at the direction of Lindberg, two corporate entities were set-up to form an independent expenditure committee with the purpose of supporting the Commissioner’s re-election campaign, and Lindberg funded the entities with $1.5 million as promised to the Commissioner. In addition, at Lindberg and Gray’s direction, Hayes caused the transfer of $250,000 from monies Lindberg had previously contributed to a North Carolina state party of which Hayes was chairman, to the Commissioner’s re-election campaign.
According to admissions Hayes made in connection with his guilty plea, on or about Aug. 28, 2018, Hayes falsely stated to FBI agents that he had never spoken with the NCDOI Commissioner about personnel or personnel problems at NCDOI, or about Lindberg or Gray. Hayes further admitted that, at the time he made the materially false statements, Hayes knew that it was unlawful to lie to the FBI, and knew that his statements were false because Hayes had in fact spoken with the NCDOI Commissioner about Lindberg and Gray, and about Lindberg’s request that the Commissioner move certain personnel within NCDOI.
The FBI’s Charlotte field office investigated the case.
Trial Attorney James C. Mann of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys William Stetzer and Dana Washington of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina are in charge of the prosecution.